According to Reuters, Apple’s 2020 iPhone release dates may be delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak in China:
Travel restrictions to China because of the coronavirus have come just as Apple Inc’s engineers usually jet off to Asia to perfect the production of this fall’s new iPhones, former employees and supply chain experts told Reuters.
High-volume manufacturing is not scheduled until summer, but the first months of the year are when Apple irons out assembly processes with partners such as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co’s Foxconn, two former Apple employees said.
“They probably have one assembly line they’re trying things out on,” said a former employee speaking on the condition of anonymity.
“Are Apple’s engineers with the Foxconn engineers? If they are, they’re probably making progress. But if they’re not, if they’re quarantined, that could be bad,” added the unnamed employee.
According to sources, Reuters says senior Foxconn officials have been working remotely in Taiwan, since the Lunar New Year. Foxconn is one of Apple’s major iPhone production suppliers.
Normally, the move from iPhone prototype to assembly in the millions begins in early February, after the Lunar New Year, say sources familiar with the process. From here, Apple would have tested a small number of prototypes at the ‘engineering validation’ stage, with engineers from both companies diagnosing the new models.
This stage is where delays could push back Apple’s launch timelines, as the latter needs to finalize custom-made parts for the iPhone from its many suppliers.
New assembly lines are typically created in March and April at Foxconn under the supervision of Apple for trial runs, with final preparations in place for the goal of production to ramp up in June.
Former Apple engineer, Anna-Katrina Shedletsky, told Reuters, “You can fly those engineers somewhere else but there’s knowledge about how you make a product in that environment. It’s not that it can’t be taught but it’s a hard thing to move.”
One unnamed executive from a semiconductor company said “There is no face-to-face work being done,” adding delays may be at least one month or even two.
Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported Apple had started reopening most of its stores in China previously shut down due to coronavirus, with limited hours compared to normal.