Apple has been releasing new iPhones annually since the smartphone debuted in 2007. But could 2020 be the first year Apple doesn't unveil a new iteration of its flagship handset?
In a series of articles over the past several days, unidentified sources who claim to have knowledge of Apple's plans say the company is at least considering the possibility of not launching a high-end iPhone later this year, as it had planned.
The first report came from the Nikkei Asian Review, which cited sources saying Apple is questioning whether consumers will want to spend $1,000 or more on a new high-end iPhone because of the major economic losses incurred by Covid-19's spread around the world.
It was followed just a day later by a Reuters report that said Apple suppliers aren't sure demand will be all that great.
Wedbush analyst Dan Ives told investors this week that a best-case scenario would see Apple release an iPhone in September, as expected. A more likely scenario, Ives told investors, is one in which Apple delays the iPhone launch to a holiday release timetable. A worst-case scenario could see Apple wait until 2021 to release this year's iPhones.
What that ultimately means for Apple and the broader industry remains to be seen. Of course, Apple's business would be negatively affected by such a move, which would likely thrust the company's fourth quarter (its fiscal first quarter) into a massive decline compared to previous years.
The move would also affect the vast ecosystem of case makers, accessories makers, and other companies that make products to work with new iPhones. If there's no new iPhone, they won't see the late-year uptick in sales Apple does during the same period when it releases new hardware.
Apple's decision could also have an impact on 5G. Some of this year's iPhones are expected to bundle 5G technology, which means they'll be able to connect to the ultra-fast networks. There's no telling how far along 5G will be when the iPhone launches, so it's possible that that alone could stop Apple from releasing a new device this year.
It's ultimately difficult to say what Apple's plans are for this year. And chances are, it'll be a moving target, depending on how the coronavirus outbreak progresses. But if nothing else, there are major question marks about whether the iPhone will launch this year.