Apple limits bulk online purchases of iPhones amid coronavirus supply constraints

Key Points
  • Apple has limited the number of iPhones one customer can buy from its online store to two devices per model per person. 
  • Other products, including iPad Pro models announced on Wednesday, also have the two-unit restriction. 
  • In February Apple warned that iPhone supply would be temporarily constrained due to the coronavirus outbreak. 
New iPhones on display in the Apple Marunouchi store in late 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. The most-bullish Apple stock price on Wall Street is predicated on an upcoming upgrade "supercycle" that will involve up to 350 million phones.
Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Apple is limiting bulk purchases of iPhones and other products as it faces supply constraints related to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

Apple's online store began limiting U.S. customers to two units of each iPhone model per person this week. Customers can still buy more than two iPhones in one order, but they would have to be different models -- for instance, two iPhone 11s and two iPhone 11 Pros.

The restriction applies to the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone XR, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Max.

Other products, including iPad Pro models announced on Wednesday, also have purchase limits.

The purchase limits are a visible effect of the virus's effect on Apple's operations and supply chain.  Analysts have closely watched Apple's online shipping times in recent months for clues to how the coronavirus outbreak has affected supply and demand for the company's products. 

In February, Apple issued a warning to investors that said that worldwide iPhone supply will be temporarily constrained.  "While our iPhone manufacturing partner sites are located outside the Hubei province — and while all of these facilities have reopened — they are ramping up more slowly than we had anticipated," Apple said in the Feb. 17 warning.

There are legitimate reasons to buy more than two iPhones at the same time, such as for software development testing or for large families, but Apple has also grappled with "grey market" resellers who buy Apple products in bulk to distribute them for a profit in areas where they are unavailable or in short supply. 

Apple's physical stores outside of China are closed indefinitely, although Apple's online store remains open. 

Apple has put purchase limits on its products in the past, usually during launch periods. When the iPhone launched in 2007, Apple limited sales of the phone to two per person to discourage people who wanted to resell the hot device. Apple didn't respond to requests for comment. 

"Given the popularity and/or supply constraints of some of our products, Apple may have to limit the number of products available for purchase. Trust us, we're building them as fast as we can," Apple has said for years on its online store policy page

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