iPhone 13 demand: Do people really want Apple’s latest phone?

iPhone 13
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple already has an iPhone 13 supply problem. Could it be facing a demand problem too?

That seems to be the conclusion of a Bloomberg report (opens in new tab) based on sources from Apple's supply chain. According to Bloomberg, after cutting iPhone 13 production orders for this year due to parts shortages, Apple is now telling component suppliers that iPhone 13 demand may weaken as well, instead of increasing, once iPhone supplies return to normal levels.

If reports of weakening demand are true, it would run counter to expectations for the iPhone 13. After last year's iPhone 12 enjoyed record sales, analysts expected the good times to continue with Apple's new phone, fueled by more customers seeking out 5G-ready phones. Bloomberg's article claims Apple is still on track to hit the consensus forecast of $118 billion in total sales for the holiday quarter, but that the iPhone 13 sales won't be as spectacular as had been predicted.

And if that's the case, why has iPhone 13 demand slipped?

The supply problems that have dogged Apple this fall — and that the company warned about during its last earnings call with Wall Street analysts — may be coming home to roost. While iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini orders ship in a couple days currently, the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max face a week or two before going out the factory door. And that's an actually an improvement over times we had seen earlier this week.

iphone 13 pro display on in hand with wood background

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Would-be iPhone customers, those who've put off ordering their phone, may look at delays and reconsider buying an iPhone altogether in 2021. For some, it might be worth waiting for a newer iPhone in 2022. While the iPhone 14 isn't expected until the fall, a new version of the iPhone SE could ship in the first three months of the year, if rumors of Apple's plans are accurate.

Apple's supply-and-demand struggles also come at a time when the U.S. economy is facing its share of challenges, particularly in the form of inflation. While the cost of the iPhone 13 models hasn't gone up, other prices have. And that might make consumers wary about spending anywhere from $699 to $1,099 on a new phone, even with the discounts Apple offers for trading in your old handset.

At least Apple can take comfort in the fact that it's not the phone themselves that are keeping people from buying. All four iPhone 13 models have debuted to stellar reviews — we currently rank the iPhone 13 Pro Max as the best phone you can buy. 

More significantly, iPhone 13 vs. iPhone 11 comparisons show how much has changed in the last two years. With people holding onto phones longer, an upgrade to the iPhone 13 delivers very dramatic improvements over the phones Apple released three to four years ago. (See our iPhone 13 upgrade guide to get a specific breakdown of features you get depending on which model you currently own.)

One other thing worth keeping in mind: while iPhone 13 supply issues are very real, the concerns over demand may be overblown. "Individual drawdowns in a complex and diverse supply chain are normal and not a good indicator that demand is low," cautioned Avi Greengart, lead analyst at Techsponential when I asked him about the possibility of weaker than expected demand based on Bloomberg's report.

Apple won't announce its holiday sales results until the end of January when it reports earnings for the first quarter of its 2022 fiscal year. That's when we'll find out for certain just how big a hit the iPhone 13 actually is.

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.