How Apple Ships Millions of iPhones for Simultaneous Delivery

Apple's operations department is currently overseeing the shipment of millions of iPhones to nine countries around the world for a launch event on September 20. The iPhone 5c and 5s will go on sale simultaneously in the U.S., Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, and the UK.

Bloomberg examined how Apple manages such a rollout and the logistical operation it uses to get the phones where they need to be.

FedEx 777
Apple moves finished iPhones from Foxconn and Pegatron factories to shipping companies with a protective security detail. Then they are loaded onto airplanes via "pre-bought airfreight space" including former Russian military transports and, for shipments to the U.S., aboard FedEx Boeing 777 freight planes, like the one pictured above.

Bloomberg says the company makes constant adjustments to iPhone shipments based on real-time product demand. Apple organizes teams from sales, marketing, operations and finance to estimate how many devices will be needed, and millions of phones are shipped to distribution hubs around the world ahead of the public announcement of the launch.

Before Apple's formal unveiling on stage, iPhones are shipped to distribution centers around the world, including Australia, China, the Czech Republic, Japan, Singapore, the U.K. and the U.S., said one of the people with knowledge of the matter. Security personnel are with the devices every step of the way, from truck depots, airports, customs and storage warehouses until the product is finally unveiled, two people said.

FedEx ships Apple handsets to the U.S. mainly using Boeing 777s, according to Satish Jindel, a logistics-industry consultant and president of SJ Consulting Group. Those planes can make the 15-hour flight from China to the main U.S. hub for freight shipments in Memphis, Tennessee, without refueling, Jindel said. The 777s can carry about 450,000 iPhones and cost about $242,000 to charter, with fuel accounting for more than half the expense.

After the new product launch, Apple continues to "manage the flow of orders from people looking for a specific color [or] memory size". The iPhone 5s will come in 3 colors and 3 capacities, while the 5c has 5 colors and 2 capacities -- not to mention different models for each carrier around the world.

By monitoring sales from its retail stores, website and third-party resellers, Apple reallocates handsets based on where demand is strongest, one of the people said. iPhones coming off the assembly line in China originally destined for retail stores in Europe could be used to fill a bump in online orders, for instance. The process involves crunching a lot of data.

The iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c will go on sale in 9 countries on September 20. The iPhone 5c will be available for preorder on September 13.

(Image courtesy Flickr/BriYYZ)

Top Rated Comments

Nykwil Avatar
99 months ago
Still iPhone 5C is a rip off.

Thank you for contributing your astute insight into this topic. A class member here.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
pk7 Avatar
99 months ago
As an aviation aficionado - love the Boeing 777. My favorite airliner. Beautiful, quiet, and efficient.

A beautiful plane to deliver beautiful products :D
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
WatchTheThrone Avatar
99 months ago
This is where Tim Cook shines. Logistics.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jreed91 Avatar
99 months ago
That seems like a lot of work just to keep the phones a secret till the very last second.

Especially when everyone knew all of the details ahead of time.
They would have to do this even if it wasn't a secret.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
lostngone Avatar
99 months ago
If you live in Alaska and you order from Apple you most likely know how crazy Fedex Logistics is....

9 or of 10 times I order a Apple product it leaves China lands in Anchorage then leaves Anchorage and goes down to the lower 48 and gets shipped back to Anchorage?!?!

When you check to tracking site and it shows it is only about 4 miles away and the next time you check it is 1000+ miles away.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jfx94 Avatar
99 months ago
Ops is something in which Apple, especially under TC, really excels.

Highly efficient.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

samsung experience 1

Samsung's 'iTest' Lets You Try a Galaxy Device on Your iPhone

Thursday April 8, 2021 12:42 pm PDT by
Samsung has launched "iTest," an interactive website experience that's designed to allow iPhone users to test out Android on a Galaxy device, or "sample the other side," as Samsung puts it. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. The iTest website is being advertised in New Zealand, according to a MacRumors reader who came across the feature. Visiting the iTest website on...
sonny 2021 ipad mini pro dummies

Leaked Dummy Units Show iPad Mini 6 With Thick Bezels and Home Button, New iPad Pro Models

Thursday April 8, 2021 2:11 am PDT by
Rumors suggest Apple will release refreshed versions of the iPad mini and iPad Pro models in the first half of this year, potentially as soon as this month, and a new leak today has provided us with a possible preview of what to expect in terms of the devices' overall design and camera prospects. Tech leaker and Apple blogger Sonny Dickson this morning shared images on Twitter showing dummy ...
apple music for artists new icon

Apple's Revamped Apple Music for Artists Icon Leads to Speculation About iOS 15 Design Plans

Tuesday April 6, 2021 1:03 pm PDT by
Apple yesterday updated its Apple Music for Artists app with some minor bug fixes and improvements, but also one other notable change -- a new icon. New icon on the right The Apple Music for Artists app now features a simpler, streamlined icon with a pinkish red music logo rather than the multicolored logo that was used before. The icon also has an embossed look that makes it stand out from...
apple find my network

Apple Announces Find My Network With Support for Third-Party Devices

Wednesday April 7, 2021 10:06 am PDT by
Apple today announced the launch of its Find My network accessory program, which is designed to allow third-party Bluetooth devices to be tracked in the Find My app right alongside your Apple devices. According to Apple, the first accessory companies to take advantage of the new Find My integration include Belkin, Chipolo, and VanMoof, with devices set to be available beginning next week. ...
new m1 chip

M1 Mac RAM and SSD Upgrades Found to Be Possible After Purchase

Tuesday April 6, 2021 5:34 am PDT by
Technicians in China have reportedly succeeded in upgrading the memory and storage of the M1 chip, suggesting that Apple's integrated custom silicon for the Mac may be more flexible than previously thought. Reports of maintenance technicians being able to expand the memory and storage of M1 Macs began circulating on Chinese social media over the weekend, but now international reports have...
Intel MBP Is Thin and Lighjt

Intel Ad for 'World's Best Processor' Features a MacBook Pro

Wednesday April 7, 2021 9:51 am PDT by
Intel has been on a relentless marketing drive against Mac computers in recent weeks, positioning them as inferior to Windows laptops powered by Intel processors. In a slight slip-up, however, Intel has accidentally used a MacBook instead of a Windows laptop in one of its newest ads to promote one of its new 11th-generation chips as "the world's best processor." The ad appeared on Reddit and ...
tmobile 5g modem

T-Mobile Launches Unlimited 5G Home Internet for $60/Month

Wednesday April 7, 2021 2:18 pm PDT by
T-Mobile today hosted an Un-carrier event where the company announced the launch of a a new 5G home internet plan, which is priced at $60 per month and offers unlimited data. The service is available to more than 30 million Americans across much of the United States, including 10 million households in rural areas not typically able to access reliable broadband. Connectivity will be either 4G ...
iMessage Android featured

Apple's Rationale for Not Bringing iMessage to Android Revealed in Legal Documents

Friday April 9, 2021 2:22 am PDT by
It's no secret that Apple sees iMessage as a big enough selling point to keep the service exclusive to Apple devices, however new court filings submitted by Epic Games in its ongoing lawsuit with the company reveal just how Apple executives have rationalized their decision not to develop a version of iMessage for Android. Apple clearly recognizes the power that iMessage has to keep users...
14

Apple Seeds Seventh Betas of iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 to Developers [Update: Public Beta Available]

Wednesday April 7, 2021 10:04 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the seventh betas of upcoming iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 updates to developers for testing purposes, with the new beta updates coming one week after Apple released the sixth iOS and iPadOS 14.5 betas. iOS and iPadOS 14.5 can be downloaded through the Apple Developer Center or over the air after the proper profile has been installed on an iPhone or iPad. iOS 14.5 is the...
ipad pro and macbook pro

iPad and MacBook Production Reportedly Delayed Due to Global Chip Shortage

Thursday April 8, 2021 2:31 am PDT by
Apple is facing a global shortage of certain components for some of its MacBook and iPad models, causing the Cupertino tech giant and its suppliers to postpone production of the products, according to a new report from Nikkei Asia. According to the report, MacBook production is being hindered due to the shortage of chips mounted onto the circuit board before final assembly, which is a key...