Update 04/27/2020: Sources speaking with the Wall Street Journal are claiming that Apple is pushing back mass production of its “flagship iPhone” – which presumably refers to the iPhone 12 – because of coronavirus related manufacturing disruptions and weakened global consumer demand.
But the report states that Apple will launch the new iPhone this year, although it may land slightly later than the typical September date. The real impact of delayed mass production, the report says, is that Apple will slash the number of handsets it produces by as much as 20%.
As is the case with previous reports, the WSJ’s sources also confirm that Apple is working on four new iPhones that will come in three sizes; 5.4-inches, two 6.1 inch devices and one 6.7-inch iPhone – although not all will have 5G connectivity.
The news about Apple’s issues with production – and the subsequent delays that it’s causing – is chaotic and inconsistent. The latest, that a possible December launch is on the cards for certain models, only adds the confusion.
The iPhone SE 2020 was delayed by a few weeks, but the rumours of “months” and “indefinite” delays turned out to be wrong. Similarly, the upcoming iPhone 12 is either on schedule, delayed by months or delayed into 2021.
We know that factory shutdowns in China, caused the initial delays, but it appears those factories are back to normal operation. Recent analyst insight, via 9to5Mac, suggests that delays in producing iPhone 12 units that support both mmWave and sub-6Ghz 5G standards might also be holding things up.
The other issue is reduced demand. The Financial Times reported recently that a large factory complex in Zhengzhou, China (nicknamed “iPhone City”) where Foxxconn is contracted to assemble iPhones, is cutting staff.
Several factory workers speaking to the publication claimed that weaker demand in the US is slowing production of the iPhone 11. Reports have also surfaced that Apple may hold-off on releasing the iPhone 12 until demand – or the global economy – picks up again.
There clearly are problems, as I have reported a few times, but at this stage there isn’t a clear picture about how serious the problem is – or if it’s not serious at all. What we do know, though, is that Apple has successfully managed to launch two major products – the iPhone SE 2020 and a new iPad Pro – right in the middle of the pandemic.
Both devices may have had crucial parts of the production process – such as prototyping – completed before the worst of the virus hit, which might explain their reasonably smooth transition from factory to shelves.
Or, perhaps, Apple is entirely able to weather the storm and its planned launch roadmap is on schedule. Or maybe Apple can mass produce all of its upcoming devices but it’s holding off to see if demand recovers. Any of these are a possibility – likely, even – and that’s the issue.
The state of the rest of Apple’s products is truly in the air. I can’t remember a time when there was so much confusion about what Apple is releasing and when.
That’s a problem because 2020 is the year that Apple decided to finally build an iPhone for every customer of every income.
Ranging from the surprisingly cheap iPhone SE 2020, to the new iPhone SE Plus, to various iPhone 12 models of varying functionality right through to the rumoured upper-end iPhone 12 5G.
That’s six iPhones penned for this year or early 2021 (not including the new headphones and smart home products), which shows Apple clearly had plans to dominate the market and not give consumers a chance to even consider buying another device. There appears to be a new ruthlessness about the Cupertino-based company.
The bad news, of course, for other smartphone makers is that this strategy will work – as I discovered on Android and Pixel forums. When the iPhone SE landed, long-serving Pixel fans that regularly – fervently – post in these groups were quickly tempted by a cheap iPhone. As I mentioned in a previous article, Apple’s brand reigns supreme. It’s only a price drop away from vacuuming up customers and I suspect every other manufacturer knows this.
But Android smartphone makers will have a small bit of respite because it looks like Apple is one of the worst hit tech companies by the COVID-19 outbreak. That, or Apple’s problems are completely over stated and it’s on course to release it’s full showcase of products and have a successful year. Either scenario appears to be on the cards in what is shaping up to be a confusing and chaotic year.