South Africans looking to get their hands on an Apple iPhone 12 Pro or iPhone 12 Pro Max will have a tough time buying one of these smartphones from a mobile network operator.
This issue was brought to the attention of MyBroadband by a Cell C business contract customer who had been struggling to upgrade his device to an iPhone 12 Pro Max since 26 January.
“It’s been two months now and Cell C still jumps around the subject of doing an upgrade. I have never experienced something this bizarre in my life,” the customer said.
“I have spoken to quite a few other Cell C business clients and they are having serious problems as well.”
The customer complained that he had logged a request for an upgrade via multiple channels – a physical visit to a Cell C store, phone calls to the support centre, online chat, and email – all without success.
“For a week I tried calling. I get transferred to the business upgrade department and normally no one answers,” he said.
“When someone answers and I enquire about an upgrade, the line cuts or they say they will transfer me and the line gets dropped”.
The next week he tried sending numerous emails to the upgrade department, which typically resulted in no response.
He also sent chat messages on Cell C’s website for which he repeatedly got the “someone will assist you shortly” message.
At one point he received an email from an agent who said that Cell C did not have stock of the iPhone 12 Pro Max due to the Chinese New Year.
He continued to follow up with this agent to find out when stock would be available again.
“The person who assisted me doesn’t reply to my emails. Managed to phone him a few times. Same excuse: Only a couple of days and there will be stock. Almost two months now and still no iPhone 12 Pro Max.”
The customer claimed he received conflicting responses which appeared to indicate that Cell C was “dancing around the subject of upgrades”.
Cell C responds
Cell C blamed the upgrade delay on global shortages which had limited the supply of iPhones.
“The models affected are all iPhone 12 Pro and Pro max models,” Cell C said.
“We have been negotiating with our supplier to provide stock, with the request to provide the stock in smaller quantities and at more regular intervals.”
Cell C added it had addressed the matter with the affected customer.
“He is looking for the iPhone 12 Pro Max 128GB and is willing to wait for stock availability to upgrade,” Cell C said.
Other mobile operators also impacted
Vodacom, Telkom, and MTN have also told MyBroadband they were experiencing iPhone stock shortages.
“There has been global supply constraints on certain variants of the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max models since launch,” a Vodacom spokesperson said.
He added that supply was improving and that Vodacom was receiving a fairly consistent supply at regular intervals.
“As a result we are distributing to our stores and customers immediately,” they said.
Vodacom added that it received its stock from Apple directly.
MTN executive for corporate affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan said the iPhone Pro Max had sold out sooner than expected on the operator’s online channels.
“Unfortunately due to stock constraints we have not yet been able to replenish our stock of these devices,” O’Sullivan said.
She added the global increase in demand for both the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max was to blame for a shortage of in-country supply of these devices over the past few months.
“We continue to engage with Apple on a weekly basis to secure future supply and greater volumes of the device in line with our customer demand,” O’Sullivan said.
The supply of inventory was dependent on Apple lead-times and availability, which could vary depending on global demand and supply constraints.
“Upon receipt of supplied inventory, distribution to our channel is done within 24 to 48 hours for sale to MTN customers.”
Telkom said it was also experiencing stock shortages on the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max, and there was no confirmation when it would receive more of these devices.