Apple is preparing to delay the launch of the 2020 iPhones expected to be equipped with 5G technology, according to sources with knowledge of Apple’s plans that spoke to Japanese news site Nikkei.
Apple has reportedly held internal discussions about the possibility of delaying the launch “by months” over fears of how well iPhones would sell in the current situation, and supply chain sources also believe that “practical hurdles” could push back the launch date, which was scheduled for September.
“Supply chain constraint aside, Apple is concerned that the current situation would significantly lower consumer appetite to upgrade their phones, which could lead to a tame reception of the first 5G iPhone,” said a source with direct knowledge of the discussion. “They need the first 5G iPhone to be a hit.”
Apple is monitoring the outbreaks in the United States and Europe and assessing whether a delay might be necessary. A final decision could be made around May at the latest, with Apple perhaps waiting to finalize the timetable for the launch until the work from home order for its employees is lifted.
Apple this week told employees that it planned to extend the worldwide work from home order until April 8, with stores to begin opening once again in mid-April on a staggered basis. MacRumors heard from a source this morning that stores in the United States will not be among the first opened.
Nikkei says that the engineering development of the 2020 iPhone lineup has been affected by travel restrictions to the United States, China, and elsewhere. Apple was meant to work with suppliers to develop a “more concrete prototype” for the new iPhones in early March, but had to delay the collaboration until the end of the month before postponing it again. Suppliers believe that given where Apple is in the engineering process, the possibility of a delay “is looming.”
Some suppliers have, however, been told to defer their mass production schedules for about two to three months.
“We have been notified to start shipping in big volumes to meet Apple’s new product launch by the end of August, instead of like in previous years, when it would be sometime in June,” said a supplier of components related to printed circuit boards. “The change was made very recently, and that could imply that the mass production of the phone could also be delayed for months.”
At this time, suppliers have not been notified of a possible change in the production timeline and Apple is urging many of them to make up for time lost due to disruptions related to the coronavirus. “We are not giving up yet,” said one of the sources that spoke to Nikkei. “We are doing whatever we can to sort the issue out.”
Apple’s discussions are said to be in the early stage, and the fall launch is not “completely off the table” yet. In a worse case scenario, though, the 5G iPhone could be postponed until 2021.