The shortage of MacBooks doesn't look good for the M2

Workers in the Foxconn factory in Wuhan line up for Covid-19 testing.
(Image credit: Feature China/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

If you’ve tried to buy something from Apple in the last few days, you might have noticed that many computing products like the Mac Studio, MacBook Pro, or Studio Display have some seriously lengthy estimated shipping dates, with some items not anticipated to arrive at your door until August.

This isn’t especially new - rumors started to appear a few weeks ago regarding delays with manufacturing, attributed to Covid-19 related lockdowns across China, and Apple has seemingly been struggling to meet demand ever since. If you were hoping to snap up either a 14-inch MacBook Pro or 16-inch MacBook Pro then it's currently estimated that you won’t get your order for 7-9 weeks depending on the configuration.

The Mac Studio shares a similar issue, showing a delivery window for the base configuration of up to 9 weeks, while the fully specc’d out model extends to 12 weeks. If you wanted to pair the Studio Display with that then it only gets worse, showing shipping estimates of up to 10 weeks regardless of what version of the monitor you select. 

Strangely, the MacBook Air seems to have escaped these issues, showing a reasonable delivery window of 1-2 weeks. This should come as a relief given its popularity, though we’re a little concerned about what this could mean for the launch of the M2 SoC (system-on-a-chip).

Supply of M2-powered hardware might be lacking

Plenty of speculated dates have appeared for when the fruit-themed tech giant will unveil the M2, but the current estimate is for WWDC on June 6. That’s not that far away, and if Apple is struggling to produce enough of its current lineup then the amassed stock of any anticipated products like the MacBook Air 2022 may be insufficient to meet demand following launch.

There is also reason to believe that these shortages are occurring because Apple is dedicating a chunk of its production line to creating its next-gen hardware in anticipation of people rushing to snatch up a new Mac Mini or 13-inch MacBook Pro, but there has been plenty of news surrounding how regional lockdowns in Eastern China and Taiwan (where most of the world's Apple products are produced and assembled) are resulting in significant delays. 

A new analysis conducted by Nikkei Asia found that found half of Apple's 200 main suppliers are in or around the city of Shanghai, which is currently struggling with one of the largest surges in Covid cases that China has seen since the start of the pandemic in 2019. Under China's official "Zero Covid" policy, anyone who tests positive for Covid is forced into isolation in an effort to eliminate community transmission of the coronavirus that causes the disease.

This has a knock-on effect on the wider supply chain as it can take months for products like MacBooks and iPhones to reach global markets in Europe and North America after assembly, testing, and shipment. This means that the next few months of production are what should be building up supply ready for November and December. That could spell disaster for anyone planning to try and nab a new gadget for Christmas or in the Black Friday sales.

If Apple is struggling to keep up with current demands, you might find that any preorders for new hardware announced at WWDC could stretch on for several months, which will only make things worse.

Act quickly to avoid disappointment

We also expect demand to be especially high if all those rumors about a colorful MacBook Air refresh prove to be true. The M1-powered MacBook Air sits at the top of our own list of the best laptops currently available to buy, and for good reason. It's powerful, silent, and relatively affordable for a Mac device. If Apple starts churning out purple MacBooks and your heart is set on that particular shade, you’d best hope that Apple has a stockpile of the most popular colors.

It's worth noting that there’s no guarantee that Apple will launch any computing hardware at WWDC, colorful or otherwise. We’re going off of predictions from industry analysts and leaks from people that have a fairly reliable history, but the M2 has been rumored to appear at every event since Apple Unleashed in October 2021. Instead, we got the M1 Pro and M1 Max, followed by the M1 Ultra at the Peek Performance event in March 2022, so it's worth taking all of this speculation with a pinch of salt.

It was recently announced that Apple has plans to expand its production into other regions outside of China, but this could take months or even years to get up and running. 

It's going to be interesting to see how Apple handles its production issues in the coming weeks, especially if it does plan to release the M2 at WWDC. If you’re desperate to be an early adopter, you might want to train your fingers for some swift button smashing and basket adding now to avoid disappointment.

Jess Weatherbed

Jess is a former TechRadar Computing writer, where she covered all aspects of Mac and PC hardware, including PC gaming and peripherals. She has been interviewed as an industry expert for the BBC, and while her educational background was in prosthetics and model-making, her true love is in tech and she has built numerous desktop computers over the last 10 years for gaming and content creation. Jess is now a journalist at The Verge.