Apple's 'worst-case scenario' could mean that 2020 is the first year without a major iPhone launch since 2007, analyst says

Apple Iphone 11

Crystal Cox/Business Insider

  • In a worst-case scenario, Apple could end up delaying the iPhone 12 until next year, according to Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives.
  • If that does end up being the case, it would mark the first time Apple has gone a full calendar year without a flagship smartphone launch in the iPhone's history.
  • But that's just the worst-case scenario. In a best case scenario, Apple could release the iPhone during the holiday season.
  • Travel restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus have disrupted Apple's usual development process, possibly resulting in product launch delays, according to multiple reports.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Late last year, an analyst known for his Apple product predictions had suggested that Apple could release up to four versions of its expected iPhone 12 this fall. Now, one analyst predicts that in a worst-case scenario, there may not be a flagship iPhone in 2020 at all.

Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives released a research note on Sunday laying out what the best- and worst-case scenarios could look like for Apple in terms of how the COVID-19 outbreak could impact its 2020 product launches.Advertisement

In a worst-case scenario, Apple could delay the launch of the iPhone 12, expected to be its first 5G iPhone, until the middle of its 2021 fiscal year, meaning the company would miss the all-important holiday season. In this situation, Apple would launch its rumored low-cost iPhone in the June or July timeframe instead of the spring, as reports had initially indicated.

Apple has not provided any indication that the coronavirus pandemic has impacted its planned product launches, as it typically does not discuss future plans in such a way.

But it's worth noting that a report from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, who has a notably good track record when it comes to reporting on upcoming Apple products, said that Apple is still developing a slew of new products for a target launch of later this year. That includes the iPhone 12, which Apple is still reportedly aiming to launch in the fall, as well as a new Apple TV, Apple Watch, MacBook Pro, and cheaper iPads.
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Other reports, however, indicate that Apple's product launch timelines may be in flux as its supply chains and corporate offices recover from the coronavirus's impact. Nikkei Asian Review recently reported that Apple was weighing the possibility of delaying the launch of its 5G iPhone by a couple of months over concerns that the pandemic has weakened consumer demand. Remote work arrangements and travel restrictions have also posed challenges for Apple when it comes to the next iPhone's development, the report said.

Reuters also recently reported that the production ramp-up for a next-generation iPhone has been postponed, although it did include a caveat that a launch could still be on track for the fall.If Apple were to postpone the iPhone 12's launch until 2021, it would mark the first time in more than a decade that Apple has gone a whole calendar year without releasing a new flagship iPhone. Apple has released a new entry in its main iPhone line every year since the iPhone debuted in 2007.Advertisement

The iPhone 12 is also a particularly important product launch for Apple, as it's expected to represent a notable overhaul to the iPhone that could drive significant upgrades. Other than support for 5G connectivity, the iPhone 12 is expected to come with a refreshed design, new 3D cameras, and OLED screens across all models.

"Taking a step back, this is not any ordinary year for Cook and Cupertino as the company is entering in our opinion one of its most important iPhone upgrade product cycles ever," Ives wrote in the note.

But, according to Ives, that's just the worst-case scenario. In a best-case scenario, the tech giant's supply chain would be moving toward full capacity by late April, and the 5G iPhone would debut as planned in the fall. In another optimistic scenario, Apple's supply chain would recover by late May and Apple's iPhone 12 would only be delayed until the holiday season. Ives said in his report that the firm believes the iPhone 12 is more likely to debut in the holiday timeframe.Advertisement

That lines up more closely with recent predictions from analysts at JP Morgan, which said that a one to two month delay on the next iPhone could be possible as travel restrictions have likely interrupted the company's testing process.

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