Couldn't get an iPhone 15? Thousands of them were bought by a scalper's bot

The iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus being presented at Apple's September 2023 special event.
(Image credit: Apple)

This year was a big one for the iPhone line, particularly if you want one of the base models. Not that you’ve been able to get one, however, with waiting times now reaching beyond the end of October for the iPhone 15 and even longer for the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

This is, in part, due to massive demand for the devices from the buying public; These are popular devices, and people want them. It’s also due, however, to a particularly hated group of resellers and their deviously simple tactics — scalpers and their bots.

What even is a scalper?

A scalper buys products that everyone wants, making sure there’s no real stock for them to get. This forces normal buyers onto the likes of eBay where scalpers have placed their products for prices that can often be hundreds of dollars more than retail.

That creates the waiting times that we have on the iPhone at the moment, despite Apple’s efforts to try and stop the scalpers from purchasing iPhones en masse. Maximum purchases per person both online and in-store are the primary way to try and mitigate the problem — but even with these methods in place to try and stop the scalping, how do they still manage to buy up thousands of iPhones? We’ve touched on it, but it needs explaining; Bots.

One man and his bots

These aren’t the cool kind of bots like the Autobots, these are programs that will buy up products in the space of seconds. Cybersecurity firm Kasada calls these all-in-one services, or AIO. Kasada has images of bots targeting the iPhone 15 models, with some claiming to have bought 2,500 devices over the course of a single day. “At an estimated profit of $300 each, that’s an easy $750,000 profit for those scalpers leveraging this bot.”

It’s getting to the point where preordering an iPhone without a bot puts you at a disadvantage against someone with a bot at their command — and that’s just the way scalpers want it. The less likely you are to get an iPhone on release, the more likely you are to head over to eBay and pay through the nose for one.

Kasada has a vested interest in trying to stop the bots — it is a cybersecurity firm that’s selling anti-bot packages to retailers. Apple also has an interest in stopping scalpers and bots, as otherwise the iPhones just end up gathering dust in a garage somewhere, waiting for some poor schmuck to take the very expensive bait. For customers that go through a plan with a carrier, this is less of a problem — those options require credit checks and personal details, something the bots are yet to be able to break.

Most of all, however, it's the consumer that’s affected by bots the most, as it makes getting an iPhone that much harder. There is something we as buyers can do, and it might take swallowing some of that ‘new device on release date’ pride — don’t buy from scalpers. If the demand for their services goes down, eventually they’ll have little choice but to stop buying thousands of iPhones and selling them way over the odds.

Still, trying to get your hands on a new iPhone 15? Make sure you check out the best iPhone 15 deals, and you'll find the best places to get a good price.

Tammy Rogers
Senior Staff Writer

As iMore's Senior Staff writer, Tammy uses her background in audio and Masters in screenwriting to pen engaging product reviews and informative buying guides. The resident audiophile (or audio weirdo), she's got an eye for detail and a love of top-quality sound. Apple is her bread and butter, with attention on HomeKit and Apple iPhone and Mac hardware. You won't find her far away from a keyboard even outside of working at iMore – in her spare time, she spends her free time writing feature-length and TV screenplays. Also known to enjoy driving digital cars around virtual circuits, to varying degrees of success. Just don't ask her about AirPods Max - you probably won't like her answer.

  • FFR
    So scalpers claimed to have bought …. Checks notes….. 2,500 units.

    The only solution to this problem….checks notes again…. Is for Apple to buy the software that this reports author is selling.