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

(View all)
Avatar
90 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)
Avatar
90 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)
Avatar
90 months ago
This is where Tim Cook shines. Logistics.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
90 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)
Avatar
90 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)
Avatar
90 months ago
Ops is something in which Apple, especially under TC, really excels.

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

Top Stories

Apple Takes Legal Action Against Small Company With Pear Logo

Saturday August 8, 2020 11:09 am PDT by
Apple is taking legal action against the developers of the app "Prepear" due to its logo, according to iPhone in Canada. Prepear is an app that helps users discover recipes, plan meals, make lists, and arrange grocery deliveries. The app is a spinoff of "Super Healthy Kids," and the founders claim that they are facing litigation from Apple. Apple reportedly takes issue with Prepear's logo, ...

Kuo: Global iPhone Shipments Could Decline Up to 30% If Apple Forced to Remove WeChat From App Store [Updated x2]

Sunday August 9, 2020 10:17 pm PDT by
In a worst-case scenario, Apple's annual global iPhone shipments could decline by 25–30% if it is forced to remove WeChat from its App Stores around the world, according to a new research note from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo viewed by MacRumors. The removal could occur due to a recent executive order aiming to ban U.S. transactions with WeChat and its parent company Tencent. Kuo lays out...

iPhone Maker Foxconn Says China's 'Days as the World's Factory Are Done'

Wednesday August 12, 2020 7:55 am PDT by
China will no longer be the world's manufacturing epicenter going forward, according to Apple's largest supply chain partner Foxconn, which has been gradually expanding its operations in other countries amid the U.S.-China trade war. "No matter if it's India, Southeast Asia or the Americas, there will be a manufacturing ecosystem in each," said Foxconn chairman Young Liu, according to Bloombe...

Google Maps Debuts New Apple Watch App and CarPlay Features

Monday August 10, 2020 9:16 am PDT by
Google today announced the launch of several features for Google Maps on Apple products, including new CarPlay functionality and a new Google Maps app that works on Apple Watch. The new Google Maps app for Apple Watch works similarly to the iOS app, allowing Apple Watch owners to get directions for a car, bike, public transit, or on foot. The app supports estimated arrival times and...

Apple May Release 4G-Only iPhone 12 in Early 2021

Tuesday August 11, 2020 5:28 am PDT by
In a research note shared by Business Insider, Wedbush Securities analysts said that Apple may release a cheaper iPhone 12 in early 2021 with no 5G connectivity. Wedbush initially believed Apple would launch a mix of 4G and 5G iPhone 12 models this fall. Following re-examination of Asian supply chains, analysts Daniel Ives, Strecker Backe, and Ahmad Khalil revised the predictions,...

iPad Pro Keyboard Comparison: Logitech's $160 Folio Touch vs. Apple's $300 Magic Keyboard

Tuesday August 11, 2020 2:11 pm PDT by
Logitech recently debuted the Folio Touch, a keyboard and trackpad case designed for the 11-inch iPad Pro that serves as an alternative to the Magic Keyboard. In our latest YouTube video, we compare the $160 Folio Touch to Apple's $300 Magic Keyboard to see which is better. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Logitech is selling the Folio Touch for $160, while Apple's...

Foxconn Reportedly Begins Seasonal Hiring Spree for iPhone 12 Production

Monday August 10, 2020 7:03 am PDT by
Apple's largest manufacturing partner Foxconn has begun its seasonal hiring spree to assist with iPhone 12 production, offering employees who recruit qualified applicants up to a 9,000 yuan bonus, according to Chinese media reports. As usual, Foxconn needs as many hands on deck as possible at its factory in Zhengzhou, China to assist with mass production of the upcoming iPhones. Apple is...

Apple Seeds First Public Beta of watchOS 7 to Public Beta Testers

Monday August 10, 2020 10:33 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the first public beta of an upcoming watchOS 7 update to public beta testers, one week after seeding the fourth beta to developers and a month and a half after the Worldwide Developers Conference. The update can be downloaded after installing the proper profile from Apple's Public Beta website. watchOS 7 should not be installed on a primary device as it is still an early...

Apple Watch Likely to Adopt MicroLED Display Technology in 3-4 Years

Monday August 10, 2020 2:55 am PDT by
This year's Apple Watch Series 6 is expected to feature an OLED screen like previous models, but a future model is likely to be the first Apple product to adopt MicroLED display technology, albeit not for another three to four years. That's the main takeaway reading between the lines of comments made by the chairman of Epistar, Taiwan's top LED producer, which is reportedly working on a...

Parallels Desktop 16 Brings macOS Big Sur Support, Multi-Touch Gestures, 20% Faster DirectX, and More

Tuesday August 11, 2020 2:17 am PDT by
Parallels Desktop 16 released today, bringing some notable new features and performance enhancements to the virtualization software, including full support for macOS Big Sur. When Apple introduced macOS Big Sur, it ended support for the third-party kernel extensions that previous versions of Parallels were built on. That forced the developers to re-engineer the virtualization software from the ...