Ordered an iPhone 15 Pro Max from Apple? Who knows what you'll actually receive

An iPhone 15 Pro Max against an abstract blur swirling background.
(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / Future / Apple)

If you order a new iPhone online from the U.K. Apple Store, you better hope that you get what you paid for. Because it seems that isn't a given right now after a spate of orders going missing, only to be replaced by an older iPhone or in some cases, fake ones.

We covered the story earlier this month of one Reddit user who ordered a 256GB iPhone 15 Pro Max in Natural Titanium direct from Apple's website. But that wasn't what he received. Instead, what he found when he unboxed his new pride and joy was what appeared to be a fake iPhone powered by Android and running a skin designed to get people to enter their credentials. It isn't clear whether the aim was to steal Apple IDs, Facebook accounts, or something else entirely, however.

It now appears that this wasn't an isolated incident, too. Our investigations reveal more people have reported similar experiences and, interestingly, each and every one of them says that they ordered an iPhone 15 Pro Max but received something different. An iPhone 14 Pro Max is the most common device they receive, but it isn't yet clear whether any of them are fake. What we do know is that throughout all of these cases, Apple has been less than helpful, essentially claiming that the buyers were trying to scam the company out of a phone. 

'They’re refusing to refund or replace the phone'  

The latest round of iPhone problems surfaced in an ongoing thread on Apple's own community forums with the thread's creator saying that they ordered two iPhone 15 Pro Max handsets and were instead delivered a pair of iPhone 14 Pro Max models.

That appears to have opened the floodgates because multiple people then reached out via the thread to say that they too had had the same problem. All of them ordered iPhone 15 Pro Maxes, and all received something else instead — one of them even received an iPhone SE.

One user going by the name Chris-J-88 posted on October 11 to say that they preordered an iPhone 15 Pro Max but instead received a Deep Purple iPhone 14 Pro Max. But upon speaking with Apple, things didn't go well.

"I raised the issue with them immediately (23rd September), sent the photos they asked for, and have had to chase them every 48 hours for an update on their investigation," the commenter explained. "Spoke to someone on 10th October who said they’d dispatch my replacement that day. Received an email later the same day saying that they’d concluded their investigation and found that the item had been delivered to the correct address, so I’d not be getting a replacement or refund."

From there, things got worse. They didn't let the matter lie and, having taken photos of the shipping carton and sealed iPhone box, they were asked by Apple to open it. Once open, they found an iPhone 14 Pro Max but that wasn't enough. "I was told by one of their representatives that it’s impossible for them to have put the 14 in there by mistake, so it had to have been switched after they dispatched," they added. After emailing Tim Cook and being contacted by an unnamed Apple "executive," a replacement iPhone was sent out.

Others have not been so lucky.

"This happened to me on Monday and Apple are saying the carrier sent the correct phone but I received an iPhone 14 Pro Max instead of the 15 and they’re refusing to refund or replace the phone," said safina243. "It’s so distressing as we’re basically having to pay for devices we haven't received correctly."

Another, Ryan0913 said that they had the same issue. They "ordered an iPhone 15 Pro Max 256GB but received iPhone 14 Pro Max 1TB," and they also received little help from Apple. The company "refused to provide a refund or replacement" even though the iPhone hadn't been opened.

So, what's happening?

As for what's going on here, there are a couple of obvious possibilities. The first is that Apple is incorrectly sending out the wrong iPhone to people and refusing to fix the issue. But Apple's retail chain is said to have multiple security aspects to prevent that from happening whether by accident or something more nefarious.

That leaves something going awry after the iPhone leaves Apple's facility, likely at the courier end of the process. And there's evidence that might be the case, too.

User MacDJam says that they spoke to Tesco Mobile about the iPhone SE that they received instead of an iPhone 15 Pro Max. That iPhone SE had a Tesco Mobile sticker on the back, so the carrier seemed worth a call to ask if they could trace where it came from. And that conversation made for interesting reading.

According to this commenter, "Tesco stopped using DPD for phone deliveries as they had a number of customer complaints regarding phones going missing." DPD is a common carrier for Apple products and I've had multiple iPhones delivered just fine, although that obviously doesn't mean a thing. Interestingly, the person MacDJam spoke to suggested that deliveries were being scanned by an RFID reader to determine what was inside before deciding whether to swap out the contents.

It's important to note that DPD wasn't the only courier in this thread, with DHL also mentioned. One person affected by this issue, RobWhistler, said that they found out that a delivery driver involved in his missing iPhone "had in fact now been let go," suggesting that at least one iPhone was stolen during transit.

Apple and couriers need to do better

If there's one thing that has come out of this it's the fact that Apple's customer support seems to be lacking in these cases, with the assumption being that the person reaching out is trying to steal from the company — when in fact, they're the victim here. Buyers of iPhones worth hundreds of pounds, and in some cases more than $1,000, shouldn't have to go through Apple executives to get a resolution.

I have to imagine that Apple is aware that there are problems with couriers around this time of year. The number of new iPhones being shipped between September and the end of December must be huge, and the number going missing is non-trivial. So what's being done?

We've reached out to Apple UK to inquire whether the company has any active investigations into these instances of stolen iPhones, but at the time of publishing are yet to receive a response. We've also reached out to DPD and DHL to inquire what processes are in place to ensure that what people order is what they receive. We'll update this post if and when we receive responses.

UPDATE:

Apple confirmed to iMore that it conducts investigations with delivery companies when customers report something has gone awry with an order and that the company works to ensure that packaging is as tamper-proof as possible. Those who are concerned about a package at the point of receipt should take photos and contact Apple Customer Support for assistance.

Oliver Haslam
Contributor

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

  • simonmann
    Courier companies keep hiring criminal petty theives from other countries with no possibility of background checks, and with nothing to lose for the theives, then we're all left wondering why things go missing.
    Reply
  • Annie_M
    This is partially why I opted to purchase in person at one of my carrier's local stores. I called to ensure they had one in stock and was there in 15 minutes to make the purchase. Granted, this was in mid-November and not immediately after the release.
    Reply