Apple iPhone 12 launch: Normal, not normal

I'm not expecting a special event, and it looks like the actual hardware may ship a little later than normal

Apple, iOS, iPhone 12, 5G, mobile, smartphones
Apple

It looks like the new normal is some way off, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that Apple’s iPhone 12 introduction will probably be a little different this year.

The big reveal

Are you going to the big reveal of the new device? I don’t think so; the pandemic suggests Apple will introduce its new device remotely, just as it held WWDC. I don’t think it will want to risk the health of partners and employees any more than it did in June.

Apple is also grappling with increasingly complex border agreements, uncertainties across its supply chain and challenges in terms of reinventing its own internal product testing and design systems for a distanced world.

These many challenges mean development and manufacturing of Apple’s new devices may not be running quite to schedule. We’ve heard dozens of rumors to this effect in recent months. Nikkei warned manufacturing may not begin until October earlier this year.

Digitimes now tells us Apple is on schedule for a September introduction of the new iPhone 12, but warns that the product itself may ship later than before.

Announcement, then the product follows later

This claim is broadly in line with Broadcom CEO Hock Tan, who hinted as much when he said his firm’s annual revenue would be impacted by a major product cycle delay at “a large North American mobile phone customer."

Previous reports have claimed the 2020 5G iPhone will work on both sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G networks, but that devices specific to one or other of those 5G bands will appear next year.

A series of recent leaked images claim to depict the smaller 5.4-inch model iPhone 12, with the FaceID sensor notch remaining the same size.

Rumormongers also claim iOS 14 has been adapted for a 5.4-inch display with 425ppi images claiming to show Apple’s A14 chip slip. That chip promises to be as fast as the current iPad Pro.

So we’re anticipating fast, high-performance devices – but production delays may impact shipment times.

Plan B: Normal, not normal

At present it’s expected Apple will introduce several different iPhone 12 builds, including the 5.4-inch, 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch devices, (some equipped with 5G support). Speed, battery life, LiDAR and better cameras will be flagship features.

When it comes to introducing the products, the plan seems to be as follows:

  • Announce in September.
  • Ship later.

Earlier this year, there were claims some models of the new device would not ship until 2021, which may actually work in Apple’s favor in terms of staggering iPhone launch revenues across more than a single quarter.

Those claims seem to have gone quiet, however.

What about pricing?

Well, the not-normal/new-normal age is value conscious. The success of the revised iPhone SE hints as much; the device certainly attracted both Android switchers and owners of older Apple devices to upgrade.

At the same time, Apple’s enterprise and luxury tech customers will remain interested in high-end devices with high-end features, such as 5G and sophisticated cameras.

The price it charges will affect 5G deployment.

If Apple hits us with a device everyone wants to buy, then networks will have more motivation to implement support for 5G and service providers will want to accelerate development of new services designed to exploit the mobile broadband standard.

I don’t think the speed of 5G deployment is a deal-breaker for Apple. Most markets don’t have it beyond major conurbations, and the time it will take for universal deployment is time in which Apple can work to develop and deliver its own 5G modems, rather than relying on those from its existing supplier.

Where 5G will be important is among enterprise customers in major urban areas  seeking reliable connectivity to help them work from home. Upgraders will also be interested, with around 350 million users currently in what Wedbush calls the "Upgrade Window."

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