The ins and outs of Apple shipment and order tracking

I’ve ordered numerous items from Apple over the years, including two iPods an iBook and now the iMac. As such, and like a lot of other Apple customers, I’ve become quite au-fait with their shipment procedures. In fact, it seems Apple customers are really quite anal when it comes to tracking where their precious delivery is!

When you view any hardware product on the Apple Store, it gives an estimated “ready to ship” date. If this is “within 24 hours” that normally means the product is in stock at a distribution point and you are ordering a standard configuration. If you are customising a product then your order becomes a BTO/CTO (Build-to-order / customize-to-order) order with a typical ready to ship date of 2-3 days. This will be fulfilled from the factory in most cases (iPod engraving being an exception – that is done at the distribution point) Of course, the ready to ship date is the date it is, er, ready to ship from the distribution point or factory, not the date you can expect to receive your shiny new purchase. If you are especially keen to get hold of a standard config, you might be better off heading down to your local reseller (John Lewis are best if you happen to be in the UK)

Once you’ve ordered, your order confirmation will give the RTS date, and an estimated delivery date. You will also have an order number typically beginning with W80 or W81. This is where the fun begins. If your order is CTO hardware then it is most likely going to be built in a factory in China. From there it is possible that it may be shipped directly by courier. You’ll know if this is happening as the shipping method on your order status page will be “Fast Ship (EMEA)” This means that a courier (TNT or UPS in the UK at least) will handle the delivery from factory to your door. Once your item is shipped you’ll receive a dispatch email from Apple which will contain a ten digit delivery reference number beginning with 80.

What happens now is up to the delivery method. If it is a single item through Fast Ship deliver then you are in luck. You should be able to use the delivery reference number to do a track by reference on the courier web site (try both TNT and UPS) though you will have to wait for the courier system to pick up the details after you receive the order shipped email.

Alternatively, if you’ve ordered more than one item, then congratulations, you’ve now entered the world of the fabled distribution centre. In Europe, this is the TNT European Distribution Centre (EDC) located in The Netherlands. No doubt it is surrounded by lovely windmills and tulip fields. It is here that all your items meet up and get packaged together (or merge in transit if you like) for a single delivery to your door. Factory sourced items are shipped here by a company called Kuehne + Nagel. Going through the EDC tends to add time to your order delivery, so think twice before you add that extra piece of software to your hardware order!

So, the net result is that there are various possible ways in which goods ordered from the Apple store might get to your door, so it would be nice to have a single point at which everything could be tracked, right? Well, unfortunately the Apple Store tracking system is not the best. However, help is at hand thanks to a very nice man called Thomas, and his Appletrack site. This collates information from K+N right down to the nitty details such as when your package picked up, booked on a flight, to when it gets handed over to a courier. It also has a helpful forum which contains more information that this post ever could. It is also a fun read to see people fretting about the fate of the plane their new Mac is on as tracking shows it being in the air for 48 hours!

Not that I’ll be laughing if the iMac doesn’t turn up. Now where’s my order reference number…

20 thoughts on “The ins and outs of Apple shipment and order tracking

  1. Great post!

    I’m waiting on my first Mac (a MacBook) and so can’t help but check on it every day. Only a few agonising days left.

    Its a shame the Appletrack site doesn’t seem to work any more. People say the best part of ordering a Mac is tracking it. I guess I’ll have to keep my fingers crossed and wait for the info to appear.

    Again, thanks for the post.. Definitely a good read.

  2. Excellent information. I wondered what the Delivery Reference Number was for and I found your site which had a perfect explanation and the rigth links. My 24″ iMac was shipped by TNT (I learned) and I was able to track the delivery. Excellent!


  3. Can I just say thanks for this? I stumbled across your blog post thanks to a Google search for information on tracking my Macbook Pro and it was a great help. My order is in Northampton right now and I’m in Blackpool, so I guess it’s going to have to come to another TNT distribution centre before coming here, probably Preston.

  4. Fantastic – I’m awaiting the delivery of my new iPhone and have just been able to confirm that its on the way TODAY!! Via UPS by the way! Thanks so much for this!!

  5. Great! thanks very much for the info… now able to track through TNT thanks to your handy hints.

    All the best

  6. Thanks very much, Idlying searching on google to try and get some more info on finding out where my new ipod is (i’m v excited) I came up with this, and it is very helpful. I just used the reference number on the ups website, but i had to track ‘by reference number’ and not by tracking number.

    Thank you! By the way, that appletrack site doesn’t work. You should remove that bit 🙂

  7. Thanks for your great post 😀

    I’ve been looking for a way to track my order, and finally found out UPS Tracking site after reading your post. My Macbook is now out for delivery, and according to Google Earth, it’s just 17 miles away 😉

  8. Excellent info, I also have a MacBook Pro on its way. Totally correct with the CTO description (went for a little more on the hard drive!), it’s in Shanghai currently.

    Thanks mate

  9. That’s a useful post, thanks for putting it up. Unfortunately it doesn’t help me, since TNT themselves don’t seem to know where my new MacBook is… ;o(

  10. Hey, thanks for an awesome and informative post… web 2.0! Just what I needed. In this day and age, information really is a currency. Especially if you have a large hardware order zipping around the globalised world. Sent, tracked, and have email notifications up by UPS… thanks alot!

  11. Pingback: Digital Notepad » Blog Archive » Fast Ship (EMEA) - Next Order from Apple

  12. Pingback: Drive Through… » Two cool tools for Apple (and other) order and delivery tracking

  13. great post.

    really good info. just ordered my first Mac and i cant wait to get it. Hence why i wanted to know the delivery process 🙂

  14. I can’t say thanks enough for your this page, really helpful and have just felt my stress levels drop immensely knowing my MBP is loitering in Arnhem right now. I must admit I’m pretty shocked by the poor information provided by Apple about the lack of info, I was expecting some tip top experience switching from Microsoft – how hard could it be to say who was shipping it?

    Anyway thanks again, and at least I can go to the gym now without fear that it’ll turn up today. 🙂

  15. i think its not that the apple customers are obsessive with the shipment tracking – but apple itself makes suuuch a big deal out of it.

    i mean, i ordered a MBP like a week ago and since then i got round about 3 mails from apple telling me whats going on and where i can track my shipment.
    anyway- cant do it and unfortunatly the apecode site somehow does not work..

  16. I think the whole apple shipping process should be called: iSlow, iDelay, iStress, iDontCare or something, cos the whole thing can be annoying and deceptive. Damn!

  17. I really think the funniest part is when you’re waiting your stuff, and it doesn’t depend by what you bought, it works with everything. Just imagine how boring could be your life if you just think having a new thing and then in a second you got it. I’m waiting for a new iMac and I’m every days trying to track it, but is impossible. Right now Apecode tracker is down. So I just have to wait and praying I’ll be at home that day!!

  18. i frrigggnn hate the apple tracking. it doesn’t tell you what transit and makes you wait alot more agonizing days then it tells you.

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