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Need a New Mac, iPad, or Apple Watch? You May Have to Wait

If you’re looking to buy a new Mac, iPad, or iPhone soon, be prepared to set aside past assumptions about near-instant gratification. Amazon’s inability to honor its 1- or 2-day Prime shipping is well known at this point (see “Gearing Up During the Coronavirus Pandemic,” 25 March 2020), but even though it can presumably redirect stock away from its mostly closed retail stores, Apple is having trouble filling orders for many products quickly as well.

The explanation is likely twofold. The global COVID-19 pandemic has caused slowdowns in manufacturing and shipping, making it difficult for Apple to load the sales pipeline to the extent that it normally does. Plus, as it becomes clear that working and studying from home may continue for quite some time, demand for some products has spiked. Even the tech giants are affected:  Google, which makes heavy use of Macs internally, is having a hard time procuring laptops for new employees.

Current Shipping Estimates for Apple Products

If you were to order a new Mac directly from Apple today, here’s when you could expect to receive it:

  • Mac mini, 16-inch MacBook Pro, 21.5-inch iMac, iMac Pro: Just a few days
  • MacBook Air, Mac Pro: Late May
  • 13-inch MacBook Pro: Late May to early June
  • 27-inch iMac: Early to mid June

Interestingly, the longest delay is for the 27-inch iMac. Our theory behind this is that it’s an ideal machine for Mac users who are suddenly working from home. The screen is amazing, performance is good, and it’s a good value for the money. That’s why it’s our preferred work Mac here at TidBITS. Another possibility is that Apple is planning an update and trying to finesse the manufacturing pipeline to avoid ending up with a surplus of the current model.

Macs aren’t the only Apple products suffering from shipping delays. Here’s what the shipping dates look like for iPads and their accessories:

  • iPad, iPad mini, Apple Pencil: Late May
  • iPad Air: Late May to early June
  • iPad Pro: Early June
  • Smart Keyboard, Smart Keyboard Folio, Magic Keyboard: Early to mid June

In terms of iPhones, the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max are in stock and will arrive in a few days. However, if you were to order a new iPhone SE today, it wouldn’t arrive until late May or early June.

Most other Apple products are unaffected. You could get AirPods, AirPods Pro, or a HomePod in just a few days, and the same is true of the Apple TV HD, Apple TV 4K, and the iPod touch. On the downside, if you want an Apple Watch Series 5, you’re again looking at delays until early to mid June.

Generally speaking, apart from the 27-inch iMac and the Apple Watch Series 5, the products that will take longer to get are those that are both new and popular.

Delay That Gratification

If you’re an individual user, there’s no need to worry. Shipping delays are a slight inconvenience and are perfectly understandable in these trying times. Just be patient and remember that times are tough all over. But if you’re running a business, especially one that needs to equip employees working from home, it’s more stressful.

Adding to the headache is the fact that most Apple retail stores remain closed, which makes it impossible to, for instance, compare a Smart Keyboard Folio to the new Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro. Apple has reopened some locations (see “Apple Announces Plans to Reopen Retail Stores,” 18 May 2020), and Michael Steeber of 9to5Mac is maintaining a map that tracks closed and reopening Apple Stores.

For those who need a new Apple device in a hurry, look to other electronics retailers. For instance, Best Buy and B&H Photo still have some configurations of the 27-inch iMac in stock, as does our old friend Small Dog Electronics. Plus, many parts of the United States still support independent Apple resellers that may be open for curbside pickup—Apple maintains a locator so you can see which stores are near you. Look for the Premier tag indicating an Apple Premier Partner since most of the stores will be cellular carriers selling only iPhones.

Small Dog Electronics in Key West

In a time when the entire planet is facing all manner of problems, a brief delay on shipping Apple products is far from the worst, but it may require readjusting your expectations.

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Comments About Need a New Mac, iPad, or Apple Watch? You May Have to Wait

Notable Replies

  1. I ordered a heavily BTO’ed 13" MBP right after they were announced on May 4th. Apparently it just left the factory in Shanghai late yesterday, Friday. FedEx has is scheduled to arrive at my home on Wed, May 20. The original shipping window Apple quoted to me was 5/20-28 so I’m happy. I remember seeing that the BTO initially pushed delivery back about one week.

  2. On delivery dates, Apple (and many others) are underpromising and overdelivering. I have ordered various staples for inventory with estimated delivery dates several weeks out. I think they all have been delivered within a week.

    In Apple’s case, I ordered an iPad Magic Keyboard on April 21 (when detailed reviews were published). The delivery window was shown as May 7-May 14. The keyboard was delivered on May 6.

  3. I have also experienced that. Several Amazon shipments came multiiple days early. I guess they wanted to err on the side of caution with some estimates.

    That said, UPS Ground once again baffles me. A 2 oz item shipped to me last Mon from Orlando. By today it’s saying it arrived in Atlanta. WTF? Scheduled delivery is next week in Berkeley. Really? In my experience USPS (to my surprise these guys are usually the fastest) and FedEx are usually great, as is Amazon’s own delivery. But UPS? Good God.

  4. UPS is a bit crazy. Here’s the saga of a delivery I got yesterday in Oakland, CA. It first showed up on Tuesday at UPS in Louisville, KY with 3-day shipping (arrival Friday). By Thursday, it had made it all the way to Rockford, Illinois, and I got a notice that arrival was delayed until Monday. But, by that evening, it made it across the country to West Sacramento, CA , and in the early hours of Friday, traveled the 80 miles or so to Oakland and onto a truck. I received it Friday afternoon.

    One neat thing about the UPS IOS app is that when the item gets on a truck, you can follow its progress. It’s wild to see the route zig-zag all over my neighborhood.

  5. Hehe. I’ve admired that with Amazon deliveries. It’s indeed fun to watch them crisscross through town.

  6. I had a strange experience with UPS this week, as well. Four boxes were shipped to my wife from McKesson medical supplies In state for delivery the next day and was notified that evening that all four were in Oakland for delivery the next afternoon. Then I got an early morning notification that three of the four would be delayed for another day. They all were eventually delivered, but only the lightest box got here early on the first day. Seems somebody in Oakland didn’t want to load the heavy boxes?

  7. As someone who works at UPS you have no idea how insane it’s gotten. This has turned into a peak season heavier than Christmas. Plus it’s not blacked out for the workers (we can take time off or vacations. A no no after Thanksgiving). I’m a sorter. I’ve been literally knee deep in packages for weeks. Seems like we’re the only shipper in town. I’m seeing volume from customers we’ve never carried before. We consistently roll volume over as we no room in the outbound trailers. No extra bodies hired. Not enough drivers. New ones can’t get their DOT physicals to be move up. Plus not enough trucks to deliver even if we had the drivers. Or the time. Drivers are hitting their DOT hours by Thursday or mid Friday.
    Not complaining. Getting overtime. At least I’m still employed. Hell, they’ll let me work through my vacation if I wanted.

  8. Wow, thanks for the inside look. Tonya and I had a discussion when all this was starting about whether it was ethically acceptable to place orders for things you didn’t really need. We came to the conclusion that while it wasn’t a major problem, we should avoid ordering non-essential items if possible to reduce strain on the delivery services.

  9. Thanks for the behind the scenes view, @brevebear. Don’t get me wrong. I realize workers are doing what they can with this onslaught. I’m primarily amazed at the online tools. I’m sure my parcel has moved more than 30 miles since last Wed, but the online tools show that all that has happened. I think others above describe similar odd tracking. It’s not so much about shipments being late, as to tracking not being consistent with real progress. But yeah, probably also related simply to unusually large volume. The new abnormal so to speak. :wink:

  10. Sounds like a case of packages not getting scanned. Gives the illusion it’s not moving. Scanning packages is big deal for this very reason. Weird package miss directions might just be miss scans, in where a package was scanned in the wrong trailer, then moved out to the correct one but never rescanned. Gives the illusion the package is heading the wrong way. These problems are rare but do happen. I gotta say I appreciate the patience a lot of you have. On our end we view every package as very important. It’s why I have a job. Every customer is important.

  11. Brave Bear,

    Thanks for your dedication and insights.

    In general, I try to plan modestly ahead to keep stress down. So, as I have indicated, my purchases during this period are, for the most part, mainly to replenish my inventory (for example, a multi-month supply of toilet paper). In normal times, such quantities were easily available from local stores. However, understandably, that is no longer the case. So, given the need to eventually have the product, it makes sense for me to order online for delivery whenever. Thus, I am not really worried about them arriving tomorrow or a month from now. Given the opportunity to indicate priority, I do mark it as low.

    I am interested in networks and flow; so given the ability to track shipments, I do so. However, I am not upset by things moving off schedule. As I said previously, even with apparent hiccups in shipment progress, most things are arriving either before or near the start of originally promised delivery windows.

  12. Same. But now I feel like it’s a patriotic duty to order stuff!

  13. At least here in Germany, the Apple refurbished store could be a possibility if you need something really fast. I ordered an iPad Air 3 there on May 7, and it was delivered on May 8 :grinning:. But of course the selection is limited and constantly changing.

  14. On a related note, can the 1 year free TV+ be issued again if you buy another Mac/iPhone or does one Apple ID only get the freebie once regardless of how many devices you buy?

  15. The Apple TV+ trial is one per Apple ID (and one per family if you have a family plan with multiple IDs in the family).

  16. And the offer expires. I got a code with my iPod Touch. I didn’t activate it because I don’t have any appropriate device attached to the TV where I like to watch streaming video. After a few months, I got a “your offer is about to expire” e-mail.

    I have no idea if I’ll receive another offer if I buy another device in the future.

  17. Indeed, early this morning the FedEx truck pulled up and dropped off my brand new Core i7 13" MBP. Today was the very first day of the original shipping window Apple quotes me (for a BTO MBP) on release day May 4th. :+1: :clap: :slight_smile:

  18. Ordered an iPhone SE in early May with delivery window of May 28 - June 1. It arrived May 19, so they do seem to be picking up speed.

  19. Has anyone here used, the firm that Apple uses to verify eligibility for a veteran’s discount? If so, do you recall what identifying information was required? Or how long it took to get verified? Also, requires an email address. Does it need to match the email address provided to Apple when placing an order? (I use different email addresses for different purposes, and sometimes I run into a conflict.) Thanks for any info.

  20. Verification happened pretty quickly, I used a different email than my AppleID does, can’t remember what else was asked for.

  21. Thanks, Neil.

    In case anyone is interested, I was required to provide name, service, grade, and birth date. I selected verification by USAA membership and it took less than 10 seconds. I used one email address for and a different email address for the order from Apple.

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