iPhone 12 Pro models showing strength in China as demand peaks in US

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Availability data tracked by investment bank UBS suggests that there is strong demand for the higher-end iPhone 12 Pro models in China, though demand may have already peaked in the U.S.

In a note to investors seen by AppleInsider, analyst David Vogt compared product availability data for the iPhone 12 lineup to 2019's iPhone 11 series. That data, sourced from the UBS Evidence Lab, tracks availability across 30 countries.

According to the analysis, the higher-end iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max continued to experience low availability in China despite being launched on separate dates. Lead times for the iPhone 12 Pro stood at about 26 days, while lead times for the iPhone 12 Pro Max clocked in at about 20 days.

The analyst estimates that iPhone shipments accounted for about 17% to 19% of total smartphone sales in China in the year-ago quarter. Based on checks and available data, current strength in China could result in a nearly 50% year-over-year increase in iPhone units sold during the December quarter.

Demand for the two Pro models may have peaked in the U.S., however. Although availability is still limited in many markets, Vogt notes that supply and demand appear to be moderating in the U.S. market.

"Apple's highest end phones continues to experience and increase in availability in the U.S. several weeks post launch, offsetting initial positive momentum," the analyst wrote.

For example, iPhone 12 Pro Max availability decreased to about two days from 27 days in just three weeks. Six weeks after the launch of the iPhone 12 Pro, availability has decreased to eight days from 25 days.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max was initially trending similarly to the iPhone 12 Pro, but lead times appear to be moderating in the U.S. Since the region accounts for about 40% to 45% of total iPhone shipments, the decline in iPhone 12 Pro Max availability could limit unit upside in the December quarter.

Supply and demand appear to be relatively stable for the lower-cost iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12, which UBS takes as a sign of softer demand overall.

Based on the data, Vogt estimates that iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max procurement is stronger than expected, with some shipments likely to push into the first quarter of 2021. While iPhone 12 shipments are tracking in-line with expectations, the iPhone 12 mini appears to be coming in softer than originally expected. That could lead to supply chain order cuts in December.

UBS maintains its 12-month AAPL price target of $115, based on a 27x multiple on its 2022 earnings-per-share estimated of $4.23.