Could the Coronavirus Delay the Next iPhone?

Could the Coronavirus Delay the Next iPhone?

Will the next Apple iPhone be delayed? It’s a question I’ve been getting a lot, lately. I know it’s weird that people are still concerned about a gadget while the fate of the world ostensibly hangs in the balance, but I get it. Thinking about stuff like this helps take our minds off of the horrifying implications of the first pandemic in generations. Depending on who you ask, the global Coronavirus crisis could be a difficult bump in the road, but one that we’ll soon recover from and barely recall by the fall, or something that will have a devastating ripple effect that will hit everything from the economy (recession looms) to our daily existence (a world without toilet paper) to the technology we rely on every day. The answer to most of these questions is beyond my ken, but I have been digging into the slow motion collapse of our normal tech event winter and spring and how it might impact design, development, and the product pipeline this fall, especially that of the next iPhone. Put more simply, I’ve been trying to assess if the anticipated Apple iPhone 12 (if that’s what it’s called) and other products that might be queued up for the fall will be delayed.

Fluid is the Word

  1. To describe the situation as fluid would be a massive understatement. Yes, major tech events like Mobile World Congress, F8, SXSW, and Google I/O have been cancelled over valid Coronavirus concerns, but others are still on the bubble. On March 2, Microsoft updated its Build developer event page with a note about how it’s still monitoring “public health guidance in relation to in-person events," and, thus far, has made no determination on cancelling the event.
  2. Apple, which has yet to even announce a date for its World Wide Developer Conference (it did so last year on March 14), and is not commenting on any future product plans, will likely wait until the end of this month before deciding what to do about the event, which is typically held the first week in June.
  3. Those developer events deal mostly with platforms, APIs, and other software- and developer-specific updates that will help the companies and their partners define the tools and apps they build to work with, for instance, iOS 14, later this year.
  4. Most experts I spoke to think these cancellations are all but inevitable. “I believe any large conference that draws an International audience will be cancelled or postponed through this summer as the medical community deals with containing the COVID-19 virus,” wrote Creative Strategies President and industry analyst Tim Bajarin in an email to me. Bajarin has been watching the tech industry for decades and has a long history of engagement with companies like Apple (he knew Steve Jobs), Samsung, and Microsoft.
  5. Even if virtually all the major tech companies cancel their events for at least the first half of this year, it may not materially impact the delivery of the next major iPhone update, the next Microsoft Surface, and the next Google Pixel.

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