Apple might win this autumn just by being able to deliver. When the company dropped its new iPhones and iPads last week, the iPads were a big surprise. Most pundits thought they would be saved for later this fall, in a year when makers of phones, other electronics, and even cars are all short of the chips they need to roll out their products. But Apple wanted to put its cards on the table, and show that it had more cards than anyone else.
Wave7 research says 70% of the stores it polled have seen smartphone shortages at their location, and yes, iPhones are being affected, just less than everything else. “The situation with hgh-end Samsung devices and particularly the GS21 variants is very bad,” one source told Wave7, and “iPhone 12 inventory is very thin” at Verizon’s online shop.
Into this atmosphere, Apple drops iPads earlier than expected—and it appears to be able to deliver. This is a massive flex. It’s Apple pointing out that of all its peers, it’s the one able to lock down its supply chain.
The iPhones and iPads are all going onto store shelves Friday, and it’ll be interesting to see which ones are available where. I suspect that Apple will prioritize its own retail stores, something no other electronics maker can do, because no other electronics maker has Apple’s retail operation. There used to be long lines at stores for new Apple products, but that was before online pre-orders and before the iPhones were available in quite as many countries at the same time (because a lot of the physical purchases were for gray-market export). Apple can still fail here, but I don’t think it will.
As of this writing on Thursday, here are the pre-order delivery dates on all of Apple’s new products. They aren’t immediate, but what matters is that Apple seems able to plan: There’s no “sold out” or “we don’t know when we’ll be able to get these.”
I want to make a cool Infogram timeline, but I don’t think that works in email:
9th-Gen iPad, 256GB, Wi-Fi, all colors: Oct. 5
9th-Gen iPad, 256GB, cellular, gray: Oct. 5
All iPhone 13 mini models: Oct. 11
All iPhone 13 models: Oct. 12
iPad mini, 64GB, cellular, all colors: Oct. 15
iPad mini, 64GB, Wi-Fi, pink or starlight: Oct. 15
iPad mini, 256GB, Wi-Fi, pink: Oct. 15
9th-Gen iPad, 64GB, Wi-Fi, all colors: Oct. 15
9th-Gen iPad, 256GB, cellular, silver: Oct. 15
Other iPad mini models: Oct. 22
All iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max models: Oct. 22
Why I Still Can’t Buy a Galaxy Watch
I’d like to contrast this with my inability to buy a Galaxy Watch 4 from Samsung. For weeks now, I’ve been trying to buy a black, 44mm, Wi-Fi watch from Samsung’s shop. (I need to use Samsung’s shop because I’m doing a trade-in.) It’s been out of stock the entire time, with no projected arrival date. They are just out of them.
Apple isn’t making the Apple Watch 7 available yet, but that’s part of the point here. Apple is selling things it can sell, and not selling things it can’t. It’s not, as Samsung and other Android vendors are, trying to sell things it can’t sell.
One of the tired criticisms of Tim Cook has always been that he’s not the visionary, he’s the supply chain guy. Well, how do you like your supply chain now, buddy?
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The lesson in this for competitors and shoppers isn’t easy. For other brands, it’s about painstakingly and expensively nailing down your supply chain. Apple’s ability to dodge supply bullets all year has been like Neo in The Matrix. Off the top of my head, COVID-related plant closures socked Samsung in Vietnam, Texas’ failed electrical grid hit it in the US, and a COVID outbreak at a Taiwanese chip tester caused trouble for Qualcomm and Mediatek. For shoppers, this once again shows how Apple is the brand par excellence, the one that delivers on its promises.
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In consumer electronics, selling out isn’t a symbol of success. It’s failure. It means you just can’t get the parts or manage the logistics to produce and ship products, and so you have to leave money on the table. Apple might just win this year by putting products on shelves.
Help Me Review the iPhone
A side note: I have now been reviewing iPhones for 15 years. The trickiest thing about iPhone reviews, for me, is figuring out what I can add to the body of knowledge in the world. These are the world’s most over-reviewed phones; there are people who spend every day, all year, thinking about iPhones. I don’t get up in the morning to just put something on PCMag for the sake of it. I need to have something to say. I’m figuring it out. Any suggestions? Tell me in the comments.
Pick an iPhone, any iPhone. It’s probably available.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
What Else Happened This Week?
Microsoft announced a new Surface Duo folding phablet. It costs $1,500 and the company says it’ll be here on October 21.
T-Mobile added more 5G home internet markets. Here’s my review of T-Mobile Home Internet. The best criticism of my review is that people are getting pretty angry who sign up and then find they have lousy T-Mobile coverage, but I’m not sure how to fix that in the review process.
OnePlus and Oppo are now one. Mostly. This makes me uncomfortable, primarily because Oppo has always been one of those brands that has paid zero attention to the US market and its needs.
A study says AT&T’s millimeter-wave is more useful than Verizon’s. This is a critical result for future mmWave strategies—it really does look like the best approach for mmWave is not trying to cover whole cities, but to use it for venues and hot spots.
Did you know there’s another C-band spectrum auction coming?
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