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iPads are taking forever to ship — here’s why

iPad 9 2021
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Order one of the best iPads from Apple these days, and you're in for a long wait before your new tablet arrives. And Apple's iPhone could be partly to blame.

A report in Nikkei Asia (opens in new tab) says that some buyers are having to wait as long as nine weeks to get their hands on an iPad — a result of supply constraints and component shortages that all of the tech industry is dealing with. But the report suggests that Apple's push to shorten wait times on iPhone orders is contributing to the iPad delays.

Announcing Apple's record holiday earnings a week ago, CEO Tim Cook downplayed the connection between iPhone and iPad ship times. "If you look at the commonality between different products, there is some, but generally the challenge is on legacy nodes, and these legacy nodes are by supplier," Cook told Wall Street analysts during a briefing on Apple's quarterly performance. "And so it’s much more focused on the supplier than anything else."

But Nikkei Asia claims that when supply chains began improving last December, Apple told its manufacturing partners to ramp up iPhone assembly. The idea, the report claims, was that Apple wanted more phones on hand to meet demand for the holiday season and prior to Lunar New Year celebrations in Asia.

The result is that iPhone wait times have dropped, while iPad shoppers are still spending a lot of time twiddling their thumbs between ordering a tablet and having it arrive. Specifically, the Nikkei report says, there's an average wait of almost 50 days for anyone ordering a 64GB iPad from Apple. If that seems like a long delay, it's better than the 55-day wait customers were facing two months ago.

For the sake of comparison, iPhone wait times are down to 10 days lately after being as long as a month at the end of 2021.

Configuration/ColorDelivery timeIn-store pickup
iPad Pro, 11-inch128GB/Space gray2 weeksToday
iPad Pro, 12.9-inch128GB/Space gray1 weekToday
iPad Air64GB/Space gray1-2 weeksToday
iPad64GB/Space gray1 monthNot available
iPad mini64GB/Space gray1 monthNot available
iPhone 13128GB/BlueTomorrowToday
iPhone 13 mini128GB/BlueTomorrowToday
iPhone 13 Pro128GB/Sierra BlueTomorrowToday
iPhone 13 Pro Max128GB/Sierra BlueTomorrowToday

Our own quick research bears out the report's findings. Checking iPad inventories from the Bay Area, only the 12.9-inch iPad Pro had a shipping time of a week or sooner among the base model tablets that Apple sells. Both the 11-inch iPad Pro and iPad Air faced waits of several weeks, while it would take a month for the iPad mini and regular iPad to ship to us. All iPhone 13 models are shipping right away — a big improvement from the delays of a week or two that we saw in December.

Delayed iPad shipments are being felt by Apple. During the company's holiday quarter, the iPad was the only segment of Apple's business to not record any sales growth, falling 14% from the year-ago period. Over that same time, iPhone sales rose 9% to a record $71.6 billion for the quarter.

If there's good news here for impatient iPad shoppers, its that Apple sees the supply chain situation improving even if problems aren't going to disappear any time soon. "Overall we do see an improvement in the March quarter in terms of the constraints going down versus what they were in the December quarter," Cook said.

Should you find yourself in the market for an iPad, you've got two choices then — you could delay your purchase while waiting for Apple to get its hands on more parts and ramp up production. But if you know you'll need an iPad sooner rather than later, it may be best just to place your order now and resign yourself to the fact that you're in for a longer-than-usual wait.

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.