This is how you 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 Christmas present, you probably already know the odds are against you. The standard iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus are readily available in most Apple stores, but Apple’s flagship phones are much, much harder to find.

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

You may not mind buying a new iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max in the near future. But if you’re determined to get it done, follow the tips below for your best chances of success. It will take some patience and effort, but I’m pretty sure 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 through January. It is possible that some orders may arrive earlier than expected, but given that the company may have to deal with this a potential shortfall of 15 to 20 million units, according to some analysts’ estimates, I wouldn’t count on luck in this scenario. If you’re not worried about receiving your phone by a certain date, at least order and don’t worry about it.

Your best option right now is pick up at an Apple Store in store

Conventional wisdom says Apple reserves a lot of iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max inventory for its own retail locations. That’s generally true, but you’ll still encounter an uphill climb to get your hands on one.

Check early, late and all day

Apple has shown a pattern of releasing inventory for in-store pickup both before stores open (usually sometime between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. local time) and also after they are closed for today. Before the recent supply drought, I normally saw iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max phones showing up around 9pm and often later. And yes, stock also routinely shows up throughout the day when stores receive shipments. Restocks have become much scarcer since Apple warned of “longer wait times” for the Pro lineup, but they still appear here and there. Fortunately, you don’t have to do all this checking and refreshing yourself manually. Who has time for that?

There are tools to make the hunt easier

Here’s the real pro tip, friends. That’s how you win. Software developer Worth Baker created a Mac app called InventoryWatch which constantly checks Apple’s stock in your area – as often as once a minute – for whichever iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max you’re looking for. If you don’t care about color or storage, it will show you all the phones as they become available. You can just let the app run in the background during the workday or while you do other things.

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

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

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

When I was looking about a month ago, supplies in my surrounding Apple stores were relatively frequent throughout the day. But things have calmed down much by the end of November, reinforcing the idea that Apple is facing serious supply problems. But they do occur occasionally, just like the example below that appeared today, November 30.

A screenshot of InventoryWatch, a Mac app for monitoring iPhone inventory in nearby Apple Stores.

When stock pops up, you’ll see the store and every SKU currently available. Then act (very) quickly.
Image: Chris Welch/The Verge

Whenever this iPhone 14 Pro situation eventually eases, you can also use the handy tool to check stock for new Macs (including custom hardware configurations not advertised on Apple’s site) and other products. Heck, right now it will even help you track down the $9 USB-C to Apple Pencil Adapter which is oddly hard to find.

Maybe just try your local Apple Store and see what happens

Apple prefers online orders to in-store pickup and will send most customers that way. The odds of walking into the nearest Apple Store, asking for an iPhone 14 Pro and getting the one you want are extreme thin… but not impossible. In some cases, local stores may have inventory that is not displayed on Apple’s website for any reason; I have experienced this firsthand. So it might be worth popping your head in if you’re in the area for some Christmas shopping. Don’t get your hopes up too high, and you might be surprised.

Buying from a carrier (or Best Buy) may be faster

Apple is clearly struggling to meet demand through its own retail store, but the major US carriers are eager to do so Verizon, T Mobileand AT&T maybe get you an iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max for the holidays. It’s worth checking each carrier’s website to see how available it is in your area.

And don’t forget about retailers like Best Buy, Targetand walmart – especially if there isn’t an 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 that shipped on December 14th. You need a wireless account to purchase from these stores; only Apple lets you walk in and walk out with an iPhone that isn’t tied to a carrier.

Hopefully, these tips will help you get that iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max you’ve been dying to buy. Seriously, don’t sleep on InventoryWatch. I wish you good luck with the search.