- iPhone 12 demand is so strong that Apple is looking to ramp up production significantly for the first half of 2021. Some iPhone 12 Pro units remain sold out in the US and China.
- A report says Apple instructed suppliers that it plans to manufacture up to 96 million iPhones during the period, or nearly a 30% increase compared to the first half of 2020.
- Industry shortages of key components could threaten that target. If successful, Apple might sell 230 million iPhones in 2021, with the estimate including sales of the unannounced iPhone 13 series.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has impacted all aspects of the global economy, including smartphone manufacturing and sales. Apple appears to be an exception from that rule. The iPhone 11 dominated sales in the first part of the year when new handsets like the Galaxy S20 could not put a dent in iPhone sales. The iPhone 12 launch was delayed by more than a month, with Apple announcing the four models in mid-October. Apple then split the in-store launch into two parts, with the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 Max launching only in mid-November. Some iPhone 12 versions sold out right after preorders started, with the iPhone 12 Pro being a huge hit in October. The demand remains strong, with some iPhone 12 Pro version still being sold out ahead of Christmas. The company is ramping up iPhone production in the first half of 2021 by 30% in response.
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Apple plans to manufacture up to 96 million iPhones for the first half of 2021, Nikkei Asia reports. Sources said that demand for Apple’s 5G handsets surged during the pandemic — all iPhone 12 phones sport 5G connectivity. But Apple is increasing iPhone production across the board, not just the new iPhone 12 phones. The 96 million figure includes all the iPhones that Apple makes, including the iPhone 11 and iPhone SE.
Industry shortages of key components could hinder Apple’s plans, however. But the full-year forecast that Apple shared with suppliers reveals the company plans to boost iPhone production to 230 million units for 2021. That includes the tentative iPhone 13 series that will be launched in the second half of 2021 and would represent a 20% bump compared to 2019.
“The planned production for the next quarter and the following quarter have been decided and the outlook is quite bright,” a key Apple supplier told Nikkei. “The iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max are especially stronger than we estimated, while the demand for iPhone 12 is in line with the forecast, but iPhone 12 mini is a bit sluggish.”
Apple reportedly moved components earmarked for iPad production to iPhone 12 production, a move that impacted 2 million to 3 million iPads. The report says that Apple has been stocking up on smartphone supply throughout the year, fearing manufacturing issues during the pandemic. At one point, Apple cut production of its A14 processor chips for the January-March period. The move reflects a “seasonal adjustment” rather than an indication that iPhone 12 demand is dropping.
“There are so many components that are supposed to go into iPhones, not only core processors,” an unnamed chip industry executive said. “Apple’s adjustment indicates they now have enough processors to meet their production plan but are still chasing other needed components.”
The report also indicates that Apple considered back in April to postpone launching the 5G iPhones to 2021, as the pandemic was ravaging the world and the US. But the iPhone 12 series then saw incredible demand. The iPhone 12 Pro might still be sold out in major markets, including the US and China, where consumers have to wait up to four weeks for some models.