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Apple warns of slow iPhone 14 Pro shipments as COVID hurts production in China

Buyers told of longer wait times for shiny new phones that don't do a lot more than last year’s model

Apple has warned that a COVID outbreak in Zhengzhou, China, has impacted production of the iPhone 14 and will mean customers wait longer than anticipated to get their hands on the device.

"COVID-19 restrictions have temporarily impacted the primary iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max assembly facility located in Zhengzhou, China," reads a statement issued on Sunday November 6. "The facility is currently operating at significantly reduced capacity."

The facility Apple mentioned is operated by Taiwanese company Foxconn, which last week encouraged staff to remain on-site with assurances of regular COVID testing and three meals a day.

Apple's announcement is at odds with reports in Chinese press that production levels are "basically normal" at the plant. However Zhengzhou's local government has also reportedly apologized for mishandling the pandemic "and the unbalanced material supply which have brought severe consequences to people's work and life."

Who to believe? Apple is bound to disclose changes to its business that could make a material difference to its bottom line, making it almost certainly a more accurate source of info than state-controlled Chinese media.

And Apple has warned of delays.

"We continue to see strong demand for iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max models. However, we now expect lower iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max shipments than we previously anticipated and customers will experience longer wait times to receive their new products," the fruiterer's announcement states.

"We are working closely with our supplier to return to normal production levels while ensuring the health and safety of every worker."

The iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max are the largest and most powerful iPhones, sporting the six-core A16 CPU, a quartet of cameras, and the ability to address a terabyte of storage.

Yes, a terabyte. Apple suggests these devices might be pressed into service by professional photographers and videographers – if they could get one.

The Zhengzhou situation comes at a bad time for Apple, as it could deter buyers from considering its products at the three big upcoming shopping festivals. Kicking off this week is China's 11.11 splurgefest, before Cyber Monday and Christmas get their turn at driving conspicuous consumption.

The incident may also give international business another reason to bemoan China's zero-COVID policy, which requires whole cities to shut down to manage even very small outbreaks of the virus. Commentators such as The Washington Post's Editorial Board have criticized that policy as ineffective and redundant.

Chinese president-for-probably-life Xi Jinping has vowed to persist with the policy even as the rest of the world learns how to live with the virus. Xi, however, has also pledged that China will improve on the tepid GPD growth it recently posted. That won't happen if exports don't flow. ®

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