There has been no shortage of rumors that this year’s iPhones could be delayed by a few months. Some even paint a worst-case scenario of an early 2021 shipping date. Apple, of course, would have none of that and is reportedly pushing its supply chain partners to make up for lost time. Whether that will be enough to narrow the delay is just one question. Whether it will cause some lapses in quality or safety is perhaps the more important consideration.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit everyone hard, including giants like Apple. Especially giants like Apple whose business still relies heavily on hardware engineering and testing. Unlike its peers and rivals at Silicon Valley, Apple has started to slowly call its hardware team back to HQ, and now it’s working overtime and is pushing its suppliers to do the same.
According to The Nikkei, the top-end 5G iPhone that will support mmWave 5G in the US is already two months behind schedule while the other sub-6GHz 5G iPhones are one and a half months behind. The Engineering Verification Tests for these iPhones, currently dubbed the iPhone 12, was only completed near the end of June, a month later than usual. Other necessary verification tests have not even been scheduled yet.
iPhone mass production usually starts near the end of August but that may be unlikely this year. The other possible scenario is that Apple will proceed according to the original plan but with smaller volumes. Apple has reportedly slashed its order of components from 100 million units to 80 million, though the latter figure is still on par with previous iPhone generations.
In fact, despite all these, forecasts for iPhone sales this year are still positive, estimating only a 4% decline compared to last year. Part of that maybe Apple’s decision to buffer sales with older iPhone models, including the popular iPhone SE 2020. While sources seem to be optimistic that Apple could move up its schedule to delays of only a month or two, they also admit that the situation is still very dynamic and can change any time, including cutting orders from suppliers if iPhone 12 sales don’t match its expectations.