How to buy an iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max for the holidays

If you’re hoping to buy an iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max in time to make it a holiday gift, you probably already know that the odds are against you. The standard iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus are readily available across most Apple retail stores, but Apple’s flagship phones are much, much harder to come by.

Not only are you contending with the normal holiday demand rush like any other year but also Apple just doesn’t have enough phones to go around. Covid-related lockdowns at the main iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max assembly facility have led to operations running at “significantly reduced capacity.” And worker protests at those Foxconn facilities have cut down supply even further.

Maybe you don’t care about getting a new iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max in the immediate future. But if you’re determined to make it happen, follow the tips below for your best chances of success. It’ll take some patience and effort, but I’m reasonably confident it’s doable if you put in the time.

It’s probably too late for the easy delivery option

Apple’s delivery estimates for all configurations of the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max now extend into January. It’s possible that some orders may arrive sooner than expected, but considering that the company could be facing a potential shortfall of 15 to 20 million units, according to some analyst estimates, I wouldn’t count on luck in this scenario. If you’re not concerned about receiving your phone by a certain date, by all means, order away and don’t stress it.

Your best option now is in-store pickup at an Apple Store

Conventional wisdom says that Apple reserves a lot of iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max inventory for its own retail locations. That’s generally true, but you’re still going to face an uphill climb trying to snag one.

Check early, late, and throughout the day

Apple has shown a pattern of releasing stock for in-store pickup both before stores open (usually somewhere between 6AM and 8AM local time) and also after they’ve closed for the day. Before the recent drought of supply, I’d normally see iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max phones start popping up around 9PM and often later. And yes, stock also routinely appears throughout the day as stores receive shipments. Restocks have gotten much scarcer ever since Apple warned of “longer wait times” for the Pro lineup, but they’re still showing up here and there. Thankfully, you don’t have to manually do all of this checking and refreshing yourself. Who has time for that?

There are tools to make the hunt easier

Here’s the real pro tip, friends. This is how you win. Software developer Worth Baker has created a Mac app called InventoryWatch that constantly checks Apple’s nearby stock in your region — as frequently as once per minute — for whichever iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max you’re looking for. If you don’t care about color or storage, it’ll show you any of the phones as they become available. You can just leave the app running in the background during the workday or while you’re doing other things.

Once you see something pop up, it’s still on you to open Apple’s website (or the Apple Store iOS app) and race through the checkout process so you can pick it up from the store. But InventoryWatch can give you a leg up on the hardest part of knowing when a phone is available in the first place. As long as you catch it quickly, you should be all set.

A screenshot of InventoryWatch, a Mac app for finding iPhone stock at local Apple stores.

InventoryWatch can constantly check nearby iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max stock so that you don’t have to.
Image: Chris Welch / The Verge

When I was looking a month ago or so, restocks at my surrounding Apple retail stores were relatively frequent throughout the day. But things have gotten much quieter through late November, further cementing the idea that Apple is dealing with severe supply constraints. But they do show up occasionally, just like the example below, which appeared today, November 30th.

A screenshot of InventoryWatch, a Mac app for monitoring nearby iPhone stock at Apple stores.

When stock pops up, you’ll see the store and each SKU currently available. After that, act (very) fast.
Image: Chris Welch / The Verge

Whenever this iPhone 14 Pro situation eventually eases up, you will also be able to use the handy utility to check stock for new Macs (including custom hardware configurations that aren’t advertised on Apple’s site) and other products. Heck, right now, it’ll even help you track down the $9 USB-C to Apple Pencil adapter that’s oddly hard to find.

Maybe just try your local Apple store and see what happens

Apple prefers online orders for in-store pickup and will steer most customers that way. The odds of walking into the nearest Apple store, asking for an iPhone 14 Pro, and actually getting the one you want are extremely thin… but not impossible. In some cases, local stores can have stock that, for whatever reason, isn’t reflected on Apple’s website; I’ve experienced this firsthand. So it might be worth popping your head in if you’re in the area doing holiday shopping. Don’t get your hopes up, and maybe you’ll be surprised.

Buying from a carrier (or Best Buy) might prove faster

Apple is clearly having difficulties meeting demand through its own store, but major US carriers like Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T might be able to get you an iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max for the holidays. It’s worth checking each carrier’s website to see what availability is like in your area.

And don’t forget about retailers like Best Buy, Target, and Walmart — especially if there’s no Apple store within a reasonable distance of where you are. I did a quick check at Best Buy today, and it showed some models of the iPhone 14 Pro Max delivering by December 14th. You’ll need a wireless account to buy from these retailers; only Apple lets you walk in and walk out with an iPhone that’s not tied to any carrier.

Hopefully these tips will help land you that iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max you’re so set on buying. Seriously, don’t sleep on InventoryWatch. I wish you good luck in the quest.

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