According to a new report from Bloomberg, sources in the supply chain have indicated that the 5G iPhone is “still on schedule to launch in the fall,” although that’s largely due to the fact that the actual production of the new units hasn’t started yet. Mass production of the new iPhones is expected to begin ramping up in May, by which point many believe the China will be well past the peak of the crisis and Apple’s suppliers will be back up to full speed.
Of course, this could still change, since Chinese factories like Foxconn still rely on components and materials that need to come in from other places outside of China, which could still be impacted by the novel coronavirus. In fact, while almost all Chinese workers have returned, the flow of components remains slow, with sources noting that “it will take another month or more to get parts moving steadily through the system.”
For example, the displays for Apple’s iPhones (and iPads) are made by Samsung Display and LG Display, both of which operate in South Korea, while facilities that work on cellular modem and power management chips are based in Germany, Italy, and the U.K., all of which are still reeling with mass outbreaks of COVID-19.
Although Apple announced a new iPad Pro and a new MacBook Air this week, with no suggestion that these are in limited supply, manufacturing for these likely began long before the novel coronavirus outbreak in China had reached its zenith. By contrast, we saw the effects of Chinese plant closures on popular products like AirPods, and Bloomberg also notes that the “unusual delay” for Apple’s new iPad Pro Magic Keyboard is also likely due to the slowdowns in Chinese production.
iPhone 12 Still on Track
Despite earlier rumours that the crisis would limit the supply of the iPhone 12 due to delays in Apple’s Engineering Validation Tests (EVT) on pre-production units, Bloomberg reveals that this hasn’t actually been the case.
These struggles have yet to severely derail the 5G iPhone launch in the fall. During China’s factory shutdown in February, Apple was able to build a limited number of test versions of the new models, one of the people familiar with the company’s supply chain said.
The report notes that Apple “finalizes the majority of design features” between November and December, which would have placed it long before most people had even heard about the novel coronavirus, although Apple may likely still need to send teams of engineers to China around May in order to finalize designs and resolve issues, so if Apple is unable to do this, it could result in things falling behind, but with China on the road to recovery, there will be little reason to avoid travel to that country, but the question still remains about whether engineers will be able to leave Apple’s offices elsewhere in the world to begin the trip in the first place.