The Coronavirus outbreak in China could have an impact on the iPhone 12 launch later this year. Apple engineers usually tend to fly to China during this time of the year to work on upcoming new iPhones and its assembly process with the company’s supply chain partners.
However, due to the Coronavirus outbreak and the shutdown in China, Apple has restricted the travel of its employees to the country to “business-critical” situations. Apple engineers usually work closely with engineers from Hon Hai, the company’s biggest manufacturing partner, for upcoming iPhones. While Apple has other manufacturing partners like Wistron, Hon Hai has the most advanced manufacturing facilities which is why it tends to handle the production of new iPhones.
Apple works with Foxconn on a number of prototypes for its new iPhones during this time of the year. It is in the late stages of engineering validation” around this time in which Foxconn will assemble a small number of units that will then be tested by engineers from both companies. Any delay in this phase will leave Apple with little time to decide on the component orders required for the mass production of the new iPhones.
Following the engineering validation, engineers of both companies work on setting up new assembly runs and do trial runs in March and April. This is followed by final adjustments in April and May so that the final production line is up and ready by June.
Foxconn has had to delay the opening of its Shenzhen and Zhengzhou factories after the Lunar New Year holiday due to coronavirus. The company expects to resume at least half the production across its factories by the end of February. As of now, most of Hon Hai/Foxconn’s senior officials are working remotely from Taipei and are yet to return to China.
While Apple and Foxconn can fly their engineers to other parts of the world for engineering validation, the process will end up taking a lot longer.
“You can fly those engineers somewhere else but there’s knowledge about how you make a product in that environment. It’s not that it can’t be taught but it’s a hard thing to move,” said Anna-Katrina Shedletsky, a former Apple engineer.
The Coronavirus outbreak has affected not only Apple but other smartphone companies as well. Almost all of them operate out of China and the virus outbreak has affected their development cycle as well. If things start returning to normal in China from early next month, Apple might just be able to launch the iPhone 12 in September but the device could possibly be in short supply for the initial few weeks.[Via Reuters]