A spate of legitimate iPhone 15 Pro Max orders on the UK Apple Store online have seen buyers get fakes, iPhone 14, or even an iPhone SE.
A real iPhone 15 Pro Max
First there was one Reddit user who reported getting a fake instead of the iPhone 15 Pro Max he or she ordered, then there was a teardown showing how remarkably accurate some fakes can be. Now, though, it appears that many UK buyers are getting the wrong iPhones.
There's no way to assess what proportion of orders are being swapped out for the the wrong iPhones, but people this has happened to are reporting that Apple has been accusing them of attempting to defraud the company.
At present, as as researched by iMore, there are 88 commenters on Apple's own community forum saying that they got the wrong phones. Most of those are ones who've clicked the Me too button, but many have described their situation in detail.
"I was told by one of [Apple's] 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," posted user Chris-J-88. "My concern is that they've contacted the courier and they've said that nobody their end had touched it so Apple are now concluding that it must be me that's trying to defraud them."
"[Surely] they can see where the 15 is/has been activated," he continued. "I can't believe that I've bought a phone for 1200, received the wrong item and have just got to accept it."
Following Apple's initial refusal to help, Chris-J-88 says he has told the police his iPhone 15 Pro Max has been stolen, but the police are reportedly unable to help. He began speaking with the finance company he bought the phone through, and that firm was intending to mediate a dispute between him and Apple.
However, Chris-J-88 now says that he has managed to get the issue resolved.
"I emailed Tim Cook (I won't post his email in case this message gets removed by moderators) and explained the issue, using only facts, with no opinions or accusations," wrote Chris-J-88. "My email included dates that I'd contacted Apple and any actions/outcomes. I also included details if any other steps I'd taken (such as reporting the phone as lost/stolen to the police, and opening a dispute with Barclays). Don't forget to include a telephone number as well as your email address."
"I received a call from a gentleman at the European head office about a week later," he continues. "He took a few days to review the case and then contacted me to confirm that they'd be replacing the incorrect device, which I received the next day."
Courier companies are now suspected
Again, there's not enough information to know how widespread the problem is, nor to narrow it down to particular couriers or courier companies. But one user who got an iPhone SE instead of an iPhone 15 Pro Max, alleges that the swap was done deliberately by the UK courier firm DPD.
DPD does not have a great reputation in the UK for reliable deliveries, but in this case that user he or she says they were specifically told that items had been going missing. The iPhone SE they received had a Tesco Mobile sticker, so they phoned this UK carrier.
"Tesco stopped using DPD for phone deliveries," the user reports being told, "as they had a number of customer complaints regarding phones going missing."
Not all of the wrong deliveries were handled by DPD, however. Some users report having had the issue with the courier company DHL.
One user claims to have been told that the specific delivery driver involved in his missing iPhone "had in fact now been let go."
Still another forum user says that they have had their situation resolved, after emailing Tim Cook directly. "I got a call from a different exec after I emailed the CEO," wrote PetHRwi.
There are now eight pages of comments on this issue on Apple's community forums, and few people appear to have had their issues resolved.
As one of the original posters who did get the problem solved, Chris-J-88 has advice for anyone else who gets a replacement phone.
"When the replacement arrived," he wrote, "I asked the courier to record me opening it in front of them to avoid a repeat, ensuring to capture the serial on the device box too."
Despite Apple's failure to publicly acknowledge a problem, and it's repeated refusal to help people who've had their iPhone orders stolen, it's hard to believe that the company is not taking any larger action beyond periodically replacing a complainant's order.
Nonetheless, even if the issue is smaller-scale than it appears, one missing iPhone is too many when it's your missing iPhone. If at all practical and possible, it appears safer to go to UK Apple Stores directly and buy from there.