iPhone 12: Tracking the latest Apple model

It’s a big time of year for tech fans. The 5G-enabled iPhone 12 Pro models have started arriving to much fanfare.

Worldwide, there’s a staggering 950 million iPhone units floating around. With the latest iPhone incumbent now hitting the market, it’s thought 350 million of those units are in the upgrade opportunity window.

The vast majority of iPhones are made in a mammoth China-based complex, which is owned and operated by Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn.

The facility in Zhengzhou employs 350,000 workers and has long since been dubbed ‘iPhone City’.

Once the city’s army of workers has assembled the devices, they are transported to a customs facility built by the Chinese authorities just a few metres away.

The majority of iPhones to the USA are transported by air. UPS Airlines and charter cargo jets for example transported phone shipments to its hub in Louisville, Kentucky, pre-positioning the products in the US before launch day. Many European shipments have gone by sea.

But whether shipped by air or containership, rates have been high for shippers.

It’s not just about iPhone launches, the general market is very busy at this time of year with retailers replenishing for the lead-up to Christmas.

Although overall airfreight volumes are down with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reporting a fall of nearly 13% YoY in August, cargo carrying capacity fell more than 29% year-on-year in August. This has led to forwarders reporting rate rises. Earlier this year at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, air rates surged dramatically as countries around the world scrambled to source PPE equipment.

It’s a similar story in the container market. Container shipping lines have been extremely disciplined in managing their capacity, leading to higher rates. The Freightos Baltic Index FBX1 route from China to the US West Coast, for example, hit a three year high in late September, pricing a box movement at $3,930.

The big unknown for both air and sea transport is what the impact would be if a Covid-19 vaccine was found in the coming months. This week container shipping giant Maersk announced that it is partnering with US drug manufacturer Covaxx to provide logistics support for the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines.

It described this as “the biggest product launch in history”.

You can keep tabs on all ship movements from China to Europe and the USA using MarineTraffic data. Maybe your new iPhone is onboard one of these ships.

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Bill Lines
Bill is a director of London based maritime public relations firm Navigate PR and has been working with MarineTraffic since 2013.