Despite Apple CEO Tim Cook’s insistence that things are returning to normal in China, there’s yet another impact that is going to be felt by many Apple customers as the coronavirus continues to strain Apple’s global supply chain.
A new report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reveals that Apple has sent out internal communications to its retail employees noting that they can expect shortages of replacement iPhones for customers who may need them.
According to Apple Store employees speaking with Gurman, Apple sent out a memo to technical support Genius Bar staff at its Apple Stores to advise that the supply of replacement iPhones — used to swap out heavily damaged customer devices — could be constrained for the next two to four weeks. In the meantime, Genius Bar staff have been told to offer to mail replacement iPhones to customers and “provide loaner devices” to help them through the waiting period.
It’s unclear exactly why Apple would still be able to provide “loaner” iPhones but not full replacements, but it’s possible that this could refer to demo units or other models that otherwise aren’t up to the standards Apple has for full replacement iPhones, which are generally either new or in the very least fully certified refurbished with new casings and other components.
Other Parts Shortages
It’s not just the supply of replacement iPhones that has been cut off, either. According to Bloomberg, some employees have also noticed a shortage of individual parts such as screens and cameras that are necessary to repair iPhones that have lesser amounts of damage that doesn’t otherwise necessitate a full replacement, which could impact the ability of many stores to handle even smaller issues like screen replacements.
There doesn’t appear to have been any official communication to employees as to what to do if they encounter this situation, and an Apple spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment. In the event of parts shortages in the past, Apple repair staff have simply offered full replacement units instead, but with those not being available either, the bottom line is that users with damaged iPhones may find it difficult to get repairs — at least from Apple Stores or Apple Authorized Service Providers.
As much as Tim Cook is trying to put a positive a spin on Apple’s supply chain struggles, the shortage of repair parts suggests that Apple is being hit even harder than we may realize. While it’s possible that this may simply be a matter of reallocating parts to actually produce new iPhones, we’ve been hearing reports that the worldwide supply of those is dwindling as well.
Still, although Apple conceded that it’s going to miss revenue targets due to the coronavirus outbreak, it insists that the company remains “fundamentally strong” and that it will weather the current storm, which it describes as temporary at best. With reports that China actually is getting the epidemic under control, it does seem like only a matter of time until production returns to normal, and Bloomberg also adds that Apple is “rapidly re-opening its stores in China,” with 38 of the 42 locations up to almost full operations this week.