Apple Is Delaying Mass Production of the 5G iPhone 12
A new report by the Wall Street Journal cites sources familiar with Apple’s plans as saying that while Apple is definitely forging ahead with plans to release the predicted four new iPhone models this year, it’s apparently already pushing back the ramp-up for production of the new iPhone models by at least a month, suggesting that we may see an October or November release rather than the usual September one.
The sources speaking with the WSJ are confirming the sense of what we already know about the new models — that Apple will release them in three different sizes, all featuring OLED screens — however they also suggested that only “some” will come with 5G connectivity.
It’s unclear right now exactly how this will impact Apple’s plans, as the company typically holds an early September event to announce the new models, which kicks off a major new sales cycle that still makes up about half of the company’s revenue stream. It’s entirely possible that Apple may go ahead with its regular September event in order to announce the new models and whet people’s appetites, basically offering more than the usual lead time before the new models are available.
This actually has some precedent in Apple’s history. Of course, Apple announced the original iPhone over six months before its release back in 2007, but that was because, as Steve Jobs then put it, he wanted to be the one to break the news on Apple’s groundbreaking new product category, rather than letting it leak out through the FCC regulatory certification process.
However, over the past few years, Apple has left at least one iPhone model for a later release during its September announcements. In 2017, that was the new flagship iPhone X, which was announced in September alongside the more traditional iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus models, but didn’t actually arrive in customers hands until November. Apple also repeated this the following year, announcing the new lower-cost iPhone XR alongside the pair of iPhone XS models, but delaying its actual release into October. In both cases, this was the result of production delays caused by new components or designs, but if anything it might still have been more of a surprise that all three iPhone 11 models landed at the same time last year.
To be clear, the WSJ is only speaking of delays in the mass production of the new iPhone models, which means that Apple could still decide to launch all four iPhone 12 models on time, but simply accept the fact that people may not be able to get their hands on them as quickly as they have in prior years.
Sources have indicated that Apple still plans to manufacture new iPhones in the usual July to September timeframe, but that it may not ramp up as fast as it usually does.
This year, however, that might not actually matter as much. While Apple normally prefers to have a well-stocked supply chain pipeline, there have already been numerous reports that demand will be weak in the midst of the global health pandemic. With many people struggling to make ends meet as their employment is delayed or shut down, buying an expensive new iPhone isn’t going to be as much of a priority. While the new iPhone SE seems to have been selling well, it also sells for a fraction of the price.
One thing that does seem clear, though, is that Apple isn’t letting weak demand slow down its production plans. Another report last week indicated that Apple is prepared to stockpile 5G iPhones, even if people aren’t buying them, in order to avoid encountering component shortages later on.
By all reports that we’ve been able to piece together, it looks like Apple plans to bring the lower-end non-Pro iPhone models into a full lineup in their own right, with two versions of the lower-cost “iPhone 12” with 5.4-inch and 6.1-inch screens, respectively. These would be successors to the iPhone 11, with a second entry in a slightly smaller size, but would both feature OLED screens.
The two “iPhone 12 Pro” models would directly follow on last year’s iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, but would feature a slight bump in screen sizes to 6.1 inches and 6.7 inches, respectively. It’s unclear whether the iPhone physical dimensions would increase by nearly as much, however, as the bezels are expected to shrink on the new models as well.
Recent reports have also suggested that Apple may differentiate the design of the Pro models, similar to what it has done with its iPad lineup in recent years.
What’s a bit more of a mystery is where 5G technology is going to land on these new models. Most reports suggest that the entire lineup will feature at least some form of 5G technology, but there’s been some debate as to whether or not the much faster mmWave versions will be available at all this year, as Apple has reportedly been running into engineering problems with the antenna-in-package (AiP) modules. The mmWave speeds could also potentially be limited only to the iPhone 12 Pro models, with the lower-end iPhone gaining only the lower speed — but considerably more widespread — sub-6GHz 5G support.
While rumours about the 5G iPhone have been all over the place lately, the WSJ normally has considerably more reliable sources — there has often been speculation that some even come from high levels within Apple itself — so this latest report likely has a much higher degree of accuracy in terms of what Apple’s actual plans are right now, although of course they’re also subject to change in the midst of massive global uncertainty right now.