A new entry-level iPhone expected to go on sale in a matter of weeks is expected to face delays due to the coronavirus.
According to industry sources speaking to Nikkei Asian Review, Apple will likely miss its schedule for mass producing the new handset, which is expected to be called either the iPhone SE2 or iPhone 9 and cost about $400.
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Apple was planning to begin mass production of the new iPhone in February, according to reports, with a launch expected in late-March ahead of the handset going on sale. But now iPhone component suppliers and manufacturers, which are predominantly based in China, are said to be operating at just 30 to 50 percent capacity.
Limitations in the movement of people across China are in place to try and prevent the spread of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. This prompted Apple to warn investors earlier this week that global iPhone shortages are likely, and revenue for the first quarter of 2020 will fall short of the company's earlier prediction.
Multiple sources speaking to Nikkei say it would be "very challenging," for Apple to stick to its original production schedule for the new entry-level iPhone. If the iPhone 9 misses its launch window, this could have a knock-on effect for the new flagship iPhone, expected to be called the iPhone 11S and due on sale as Apple's first 5G handset in the fall.
The Japanese publication reported one source as saying: "The suppliers are doing their best to produce and ship the cheaper iPhone within four weeks...The delay can't be too long, otherwise it will affect the sales strategy of Apple's new products in the second half of the year."
Another source said: "The constrained supply of iPhones will likely extend to April. There are still a lot of hurdles, from labor shortages to logistics transportation."
Apple reportedly asked its suppliers for 15 million units of the iPhone 9, which is expected to be a big hit across Europe, where its predecessor, the iPhone SE, was a huge success. The SE was on occasion the best-selling smartphone in the UK across every price range. The new model is reportedly based on the iPhone 8, but with a processor and other features from the iPhone 11.
It is normal for Apple to produce millions of new iPhones before the model is publicly announced. March 31 is rumored to be the planned launch date for the iPhone 9, and the event is also expected to see the arrival of a new version of the iPad Pro. It is now likely that Apple's flagship tablet will also face manufacturing delays due to coronavirus.In its Monday statement to investors Apple said: "While our iPhone manufacturing partner sites are located outside the Hubei province - and while all of these facilities have reopened - they are ramping up more slowly than we had anticipated."