Apple may postpone launching 5G iPhones due to COVID-19

The effects would ripple throughout the company's supply chain, and beyond.

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The Nikkei Asian Review reports Apple is considering delaying the launch of its 5G iPhones. The combination of a disrupted supply chain, many of its employees working from home, its U.S. retail stores being closed, and the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has Apple concerned about both the production timeline and financial success of a new iPhone. The final decision won’t be made until May, though, given the fluid nature of coronavirus news.

Apple’s concerns — The impact of COVID-19 on this year’s iPhone launch started worrying people back in January. Foxconn, a major link in Apple’s supply chain, is struggling to keep up with production and had to plead with employees get them to return to work after reopening facilities in China it had to close for a time due to the spread of the coronavirus.

"Supply chain constraints aside, Apple is concerned that the current situation would significantly lower consumer appetite to upgrade their phones, which could lead to a tame reception of the first 5G iPhone," a source close to the matter told Nikkei. "They need the first 5G iPhone to be a hit."

Last but best — Apple is already tardy to the party with a 5G phone, behind competitors like Huawei and Samsung. Heck, even HTC is making a 5G phone. With employees and suppliers essentially under coronavirus house arrest and unable to travel, final stage, hands-on testing is nearly impossible, which makes finalizing prototypes all but impossible.

All things considered, a fall launch is still possible, failing which we might see an early 2021 release. Any delay, however, is destined to affect production lines around the world, especially in China, and the global economy will take a hit. With no end to the crisis in sight, consumers are likely to tighten their belts in the months ahead. That's inescapably bad news for companies making non-essential products like flagship smartphones.