Apple sticks with March iPhone event despite coronavirus (Updated)

Apple's l hopes to introduce iPhone 9 at a March special event may have been scuppered due to the global coronavirus crisis.

Apple, iOS, iPhone, iPad, MacBook, Coronavirus

Apple is reportedly still gearing up for a late March special event to introduce the much-expected iPhone 9, though production of any new iPad Pro models may have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Update 3/11/20: These plans appear to have been put on hold as the crisis deepens, damaging economic confidence and souring consumer markets.

Calling change in a spooky market

In January, a report claimed a March launch for the device. More recently, Germany’s said Apple intends to host the event on March 31, with the iPhone 9 (or iPhone SE2, as some call it) set to ship April 3. This was followed by a report from Bloomberg, which said Apple is still going for a March launch, but warns the plans may change.

The latter also predicts that Apple is aiming to launch new iPad Pro models with updated cameras, but warns of delays caused by the impact of the virus on the manufacturing chain.

These claims come as Apple issued a not completely unexpected warning that the coronavirus will impact business, as its supply chain partners are affected by quarantines and other measures as China attempts to stop the virus spreading.

Foxconn’s Hon Hai Precision Industry is understood to be weeks behind schedule, Bloomberg claims. That's helped push down global stock markets as investors react to the news and what it may mean across multiple industries.

Apple’s reaction to the challenge has been to prioritize the human cost of the disease and to donate millions to support the work of those working to support the sick. While demand in China has been hit, the company says elsewhere it's been “strong."

What is Apple planning?

Rather than being the 4-in. model millions of people want the company to create, the March 2020 iPhone is expected to replace the iPhone 8.

The new device is expected to feature:

  • A13 processor.
  • Touch ID.
  • 64GB and 128GB models.
  • 3GB RAM.
  • U1 chip.
  • A 5.4-in. LCD display (though other reports suggest 4.7 inches).
  • Single-lens camera.
  • Space grey, silver, red.
  • $399

Apple is thought to have placed orders for a total production volume of 30 million of these new devices to serve anticipated demand this year.

What about other products?

We think the March event was also intended to see the introduction of new iPad Pro models equipped with faster processors and better cameras (and U1 chips), along with AirPods like over the ear headphones and Apple’s rumoured Tag device.

What we don’t yet know is to what extent these plans have been curtailed by coronavirus, though Apple’s profit warning pretty much confirms the scale of the problems it faces.

Things could be more difficult for Apple’s component suppliers, who work within tight margins, leaving very little space for damage control. 

There have also been persistent whispers Apple also hopes to introduce a new 13-in. MacBook Pro and a MacBook Air, particularly following a January filing describing new devices on a Eurasian regulatory database.

While Apple may still intend to announce all these products, it seems probable supplies for all of them may be constrained in the coming quarter while the virus is contained, and the company and partners continue to invest in alternative supply methods.

It’s important to note that distribution and transportation networks have also been damaged as a result of the virus.

What next?

Apple’s ambitious March launch plans should be seen in a wider context. The company has several more key events pegged for 2020, including its WWDC developer conference and the fall introduction of its first 5G iPhones.

With services expansion to add a little spice to these events, Apple management must surely hope to push into 2020 as a blockbuster year as it sets the scene for further surprises in 2021.

However, with America’s ongoing trade war compounded by coronavirus affecting  company production, Apple didn’t really need was this kind of contagion. Even so, it is refreshing that in its public statements company management remains laser focused not just on the business impact, but also the human cost.

Updated 3/11/20 as new information breaks. Watch my Twitter feed for more news as it comes.

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Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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