Apple launched a few devices at its ‘Time Flies’ September event including the iPad Air and Apple Watch SE and Watch Series 6.
But there was something missing from Apple’s usual September events – the iPhone. So why hasn’t the iPhone 12 launched yet?
There’s a simple answer to this and that is that the global situation has delayed production of the iPhone significantly during 2020. But things are slightly more nuanced than that and the evidence has been there for a little while.
In any other year Apple would holds an event in the second week of September on the Tuesday. The 2019 iPhone 11 series was unveiled on 10 September 2019 and the iPhone 12 would normally have appeared in public for the first time on 8 September 2020.
Early 2020 delays
There were rumours a lot earlier in 2020 that the global situation was causing production delays with the new iPhone. That was hardly surprising as production in China had to completely shut down and was slower to restart than companies – like main manufacturer Foxconn – would have liked.
According to Nikkei Asian Review, Apple has been facing delays of between two and four weeks for the new model and is still hoping to get a release in October or November when in July it faced the possibility of having to delay until 2021. “Apple is doing everything it can to shorten the postponement,” said its source.
The source also says that Apple’s hardware development team returned to Apple’s campus to work on final testing and other details.
Nikkei also suggested at the time that Apple has changed its forecast for its 5G iPhones down to 80 million sales rather than the 100 million units it was targeting previously. The source also suggests that Apple is building more of its older handsets to compensate, especially the iPhone XR and new-generation iPhone SE.
Apple suggested in February 2020 there would be some knock-on effects for the rest of 2020. During guidance on its quarterly earnings it stated “work is starting to resume around the country [China], but we are experiencing a slower return to normal conditions than we had anticipated.
“As a result, we do not expect to meet the revenue guidance we provided for the March quarter due to two main factors. The first is that worldwide iPhone supply will be temporarily constrained.
“While our iPhone manufacturing partner sites are located outside the Hubei province – and while all of these facilities have reopened – they are ramping up more slowly than we had anticipated.”
Qualcomm, Apple confirm a delay
So far so slow for the current iPhone production, but what about the new iPhone 12? Qualcomm provided a bit more clarity in late July. We know it is making Apple’s initial 5G iPhone hardware because it signed a deal with the Cupertino giant back in early 2019 which brought to an end all legal action between the two companies. Apple subsequently stopped working with Intel on 5G modems (because it was pretty clear that Intel’s 5G modem wouldn’t be ready in time) and then, when Intel stopped modem design, it bought Intel’s mobile modem division so Apple could make its own modems in the future.
Qualcomm’s guidance for this current quarter – issued on 30 July – suggested a slight delay, with an October release date. It cites “a partial impact from the delay of a global 5G flagship phone launch”.
Apple’s earnings call was the day after when it also seemed to confirm the news of an October launch. “Last year we started selling new iPhones in late September; this year we expect supply to be available a few weeks later,” said Apple CFO Luca Maestri during the call.
And now that Apple’s September launch has been and gone it seems certain that we’re looking at October for the iPhone 12 launch.
We’re pretty sure there will be four models for the upcoming iPhone 12. Rumours remain split as to whether all iPhone 12 models will be 5G; it could be the case that just the Pro models are 5G.
However, there will be a 5.4, 6.1 and 6.7-inch iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max with another model – probably an iPhone 12 Max – slotted in the middle.