iPhone 12 could be very hard to get before Christmas — here's why

iPhone 12
(Image credit: Future)

The holiday season is on its way and no doubt a good few of you are considering buying an iPhone 12. But you may have to be patient.

That’s because Bloomberg has reported that Apple is suffering from a shortage of power management chips for its new smartphones. The reason for this is reportedly down to the coronavirus pandemic causing havoc with supply chains, and trade restrictions also causing chip supply problems. 

The result of this could be a shortage of iPhone 12 models as November segues into December. Apple has reportedly already struggled with supply chain problems caused by COVID-19 chaos, hence why the iPhone 12 range was revealed in October rather than the normal Apple phone launch of September. And the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max are coming out in November.

Bloomberg noted that Apple CEO Tim Cook had previously warned about such component shortages, though power management chips were not mentioned specifically. 

Power management chips might seem like a very dull part of the iPhone 12, especially when you consider that its A14 Bionic chipset is the silicon slice to get excited about thanks to its big boost in power. But the new iPhones come with 5G connectivity, which can put a big strain on battery consumption. So power management chips are needed to keep such energy eating in check. 

In our iPhone 12 battery life tests, where devices continuously surf the web over cellular at 150 nits of screen brightness, we found the iPhone 12 lasted 8 hours and 25 minutes when using 5G and the iPhone 12 Pro managed to last 9 hours and 6 minutes. These aren’t exactly stellar results, with both phones lasting longer on a 4G connection, but they do show how important power management is with 5G phones. 

iPhone 12 shortage this Xmas?  

iPhone 12 Pro review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The reported shortage of these power management chips is concerning as it could mean that iPhone 12 stock could be rather constrained over the next month or so. And that could happen at a time when people are gearing up to spend on holiday shopping.

The problem could be further compounded as Apple will then have the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max in the market, both of which will require power management chips. So Apple could find itself in the tricky position of trying to balance which iPhone 12 models are prioritized to get the chips. This could manifest itself in a longer than usual waiting times to get an iPhone 12.

That being said, Apple has spread its supply chain wider over the recent years so it could be working rapidly to overcome such stock issues and ensure there’s no real disruption to the supply of iPhone 12 handsets. 

Stealing iPad parts  

iPad Pro 12.9 (2020)

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

One way Apple is reportedly combating a shortage of iPhone 12 parts is to take iPad components and use them to make iPhone 12 Pro handsets, according to Asian publication Nikkei

The iPad Air 4 comes with an A14 Bionic chip, so the chips could be easily taken from the tablet's supply and used to equip the iPhone 12 with its silicon heart. And the iPad Pro 2020 has a LiDAR scanner, so that could be taken and used in the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max’s rear camera array. 

iPads are less popular than iPhones, unsurprisingly. So such a move is arguably a shrewd one by Apple. 

Furthermore, to combat a lack of iPhone 12 handsets overall, Apple has apparently upped the production of iPhone 11 and iPhone SE 2020 handsets. Both are stellar phones, especially the SE as it offers the most affordable way to get an iPhone. But we’re skeptical of them being much of a stop-gap for the iPhone 12. 

Of course, Apple is famously tight lipped, so we’ll just have to wait and see if these reports bear fruit. Either way, just be prepared to wait a while to get your hands on an iPhone 12. 

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.