When the novel coronavirus outbreak spiraled out of control earlier this year, product delays clearly weren’t front of mind, but they did seem inevitable. From supply chain issues to lack of demand, the general consensus early on was that Apple would be unable to stick to its typical late September release schedule for the iPhone 12 series. But as the months went on, the reporting became less apocalyptic, and last week, Wedbush analysts Daniel Ives and Strecker Backe said that Apple was “back in the driver’s seat” to avoid an iPhone 12 delay this fall.
But the seesaw continues this week as Nikkei Asian Review reports that Apple might have to delay its first 5G iPhone models anywhere from four weeks to two months due to “factory lockdowns and workplace absences” throughout the pandemic. In order to work through these problems, sources say that Apple has done everything in its power to keep the launch on track, but that might not be enough to make the September launch a reality.
“What the progress looks like now is months of delay in terms of mass production, but Apple is doing everything it can to shorten the postponement,” one source told Nikkei. “There’s a chance that the schedule could still be moved ahead.” This seems to imply that the best case scenario still involves a slight delay.
Another source noted that some members of Apple’s hardware development team returned to the office in June once the strict shelter-at-home restrictions from March were lifted. They rushed to finalize the design of the next iPhone to stay as close as possible to the September release date. “Some new product-related project deadlines have been moved up since the hardware team started to return to the office,” the source revealed.
Yet another source suggested that even the aggressive schedule Apple had set for its suppliers might not be enough to resolve the issues. “Some final iPhone assembly could be delayed to early October, and it wouldn’t be surprising if there are further delays because there are still a lot of tests going on now and the final designs have not yet been locked down,” the source said — a surprise considering how much we know about the design.
Finally, according to Nikkei’s sources, the high-end iPhone 12 that uses the mmWave 5G band is around two months behind schedule, while the 5G iPhones using the sub-6 GHz band are one to one and a half months behind. If all of these sources are correct, there’s still plenty of work to do to launch the iPhone 12 on time.
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