This week, Apple quietly launched a few new products and announced that WWDC, its annual developer conference, would take place entirely online. Those announcements came at the beginning of what was supposed to be a very big year for the company, led by a series of new iPhones, several of which would feature 5G.
Right now, it's reasonable to wonder whether any of those plans remain intact. It's reasonable because the other big announcement from Apple in the past week is that the company has closed all of its stores outside of mainland China "until further notice."
Apple isn't immune to the effects of a global pandemic, though its size and cash reserves mean that the company is far better positioned than many others. New iPhones would certainly have a direct impact on how well it comes out on the other side of this crisis. The only question is whether or not it's realistic to still expect that to happen this year.
I think it is, and the reason is quite simple.
Let's consider that Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, is one of the best operations gurus in the tech industry. He was Steve Jobs's right-hand man for years, and completely reshaped the company's manufacturing process and supply chain during his tenure as head of operations. Despite the immense challenges facing the company, it should surprise no one that Apple is continuing to introduce new products.
That the company has had to do so in a far less attention-grabbing way than its signature product launch events is a consequence of timing, but it doesn't mean we won't still see new 14-inch MacBook Pros, new high-end headphones, a low-cost iPhone 9, and an Apple Watch Series 6.
This is, after all, Apple.
And while Apple isn't often first to the party with new technology like 5G (it wasn't first with 3G or 4G either), there's no question the company plans to include it at some point. All of the signs point to that point coming this year, despite the interruption in, well, everything right now.
In fact, Bloomberg is reporting that sources close to the company have said that "Apple's next flagship iPhones, with 5G wireless capabilities, are still on schedule to launch in the fall, although that's partly because mass production isn't due to begin until May."
Much of Apple's supply chain comes from China. That country was hit hard early in the coronavirus outbreak, and much of Apple's operations slowed to a standstill. The company closed all of its stores there and many of its manufacturing facilities. Today, however, all of those have reopened, meaning that the company has time to start to ramp up production and still bring us the iPhone 12 this year.
Not only is the reality of a 5G iPhone likely to spark a wave of upgrades that some analysts expect to be worth $100 billion it is also likely to be the tipping point to bring ultra-fast wireless technology to millions of Americans. One other benefit is that it could represent a return to normal for many consumers in the midst of incredible uncertainty, anxiety, and even fear.
To say that the new iPad Pro and MacBook Air came in the middle of a very rough time is an understatement. On the other hand, the launch of a set of 5G iPhones will likely be a complete game-changer for the company.