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Specifically, Apple’s CFO Luca Maestri stated that the release of this year’s iPhone would be “slightly later than usual,” backing up what many believe will see the launch of the company’s flagship 2020 iPhones — which are still only colloquially being referred to as the “iPhone 12” — delayed into October.
While that doesn’t sound like much, the “slight” delay is significant for investors as this crosses into the next quarter, meaning that Apple won’t be reporting the kind of revenue it usually does from a new iPhone launch in its July–September quarter.
Despite Maestri’s comments, however, some analyst are suggesting that not all of Apple’s iPhone lineup will be delayed, with reports that it may go with a staggered launch of new models, similar to what it’s done with the iPhone XR and the original iPhone X in the past.
A new report from DigiTimes (via MacRumors) suggests that this year we could see a particularly unusual release cycle, with Apple releasing both the standard and “pro” 6.1-inch models first, with the smaller 5.4-inch standard iPhone and the larger 6.7-inch iPhone Pro coming later on.
If true, this would be a big departure from what Apple has done in the past, where the company traditionally staggered iPhone launches based on models, rather than size. For example, back in 2017, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus launched right away, while the groundbreaking new iPhone X didn’t land until early November. This trend was repeated in 2018 in the other direction, with the flagship iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max launching in September, and the lower-cost iPhone XR coming in October.
As usual, DigiTimes is basing its information on reports from the supply chain, specifically those companies supplying mainboards for the various iPhone models. The report notes that shipments for the 6.1-inch iPhones have already kicked off, while the 5.4-inch and 6.7-inch boards aren’t expected to start until late August.
September or October?
What’s less clear from this report is whether this means that the 6.1-inch iPhone models could still arrive in September, with the other sizes following in October, or whether the delay is more of an October–November split. Certainly, what Maestri said on the call last week would suggest the latter, but it’s also important for Apple to set expectations with investors, and nobody would be particularly disappointed if Apple was able to release at least some models ahead of the anticipated schedule.
However, sources cited in the DigiTimes report indicated that the shipments of all of the mainboards have been delayed, with the peak expected to be 2–4 weeks later than usual, suggesting that September availability of the new iPhones remains unlikely.
Most of the recent rumours prior to Apple’s announcement have suggested that the entire iPhone lineup would be delayed this year, with some pretty solid information from major Apple suppliers like Qualcomm and Broadcom. However, earlier this year we saw at least one report that suggested the 6.7-inch iPhone could arrive later than expected due to engineering verification tests being hampered by travel restrictions, and there have been other rumours that some ultra-fast mmWave 5G iPhone models could arrive later as a result of difficulties with the antenna modules. While neither of these rumours had much in the way of confirmation — and in fact the 5G one was refuted by reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo — they could be part of the bigger challenges that Apple has been experiencing, and the DigiTimes report only discusses the logistics of the delay, and doesn’t speculate on the reasons behind it.
Ultimately, however, neither Apple nor its supply chain is particularly worried about the delay, since most expect that the demand for the new iPhone models will be very high, so this is really just a matter of shifting the revenue by a month or two.