The iPhone 12--expected to be the first with 5G ultra-fast wireless--is something of a holy grail of Apple devices. Analysts have predicted it could usher in a massive upgrade cycle, to the tune of $100 billion for the company. For a company that prides itself on providing the very best user experience, the lack of 5G is starting to look like a glaring omission as competitors release their own 5G-ready devices.
The company is reportedly planning on introducing three new iPhones with 5G, to follow the introduction this month of the low-cost iPhone SE. Those smartphones were expected to launch in September, but a new report from The Wall Street Journal says the company will delay production for a month because of Covid-19-related shutdowns of its manufacturing facilities.
It wouldn't be the first time Apple had to delay the launch of an iPhone. The company previously delayed the iPhone X launch by two months, and while the move probably comes as no surprise to most observers, it's still a big deal. Apple counts on the iPhone for a huge chunk of its annual revenue--and, more important, profit.
With a few exceptions, iPhone growth has slowed over the past few years, and it's not hard to imagine that's due in part to Android devices that come with advanced features and, more important, 5G.
Apple has certainly been laying the groundwork for 5G iPhones for a while, even purchasing Intel's 5G modem business for $1 billion last year. And, though Apple is almost never the first to adopt new technology, the company's fans have been especially antsy for the iPhone 12.
Of course, right now, it's almost impossible to know what to expect. Apple, like many businesses, is facing a perfect storm in the form of uncertain demand from consumers, along with massive disruptions in its manufacturing and retail capacity. With the world basically at a standstill and millions of people out of work, it's hard to know exactly how many people plan to race out and order a brand-new iPhone.
In reality, this shows the breadth of the impact the current coronavirus outbreak is having on businesses--even the largest, most valuable companies on the planet. Despite having one of the most fine-tuned design processes and highly efficient supply chains in the world, even Apple can't sidestep the effects of a pandemic.
Apple has, however, already adapted its iconic product launch to the current circumstances. No one is gathering in large groups for flashy press events, but that hasn't stopped the company from updating several products in the past two months, and introducing a new version of the iPhone SE.
That's actually a valuable lesson for every business. Even the best processes are subject to the reality of external forces beyond your control. Focus on what you can control and make the most of that. At some point, the world will get back to some version of normal. When it does, what you do now will determine whether you're prepared.
While we have no idea what that normal looks like, the time to start thinking about it is now. And, in the meantime, keep everything moving forward that you can. Eventually, we'll get there.