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Apple 'Extremely Unlikely' To Debut 5G iPhones By October: Analyst

The company is grappling with supply chain challenges as well as travel restrictions that are impacting work on the next iPhones.

Apple's chances of launching its much-anticipated 5G iPhones in September, or even October, appear to be worsening.

While new iPhone models typically debut in September, "we believe the chances for a launch in the September/October timeframe is 'extremely unlikely' and would assign a 10%-15% probability it happens," wrote Daniel Ives, managing director for equity research at Wedbush Securities, in a note to investors.

[Related: Apple Stores Will Stay Closed 'Until Further Notice']

Ives cited "lingering supply chain issues" in Asia; economic uncertainties that could hurt buyer appetites for new iPhones; and travel restrictions that are preventing engineers from making trips to China, which are necessary for work to move along on the first 5G iphones.

"Key Apple iPhone employees/engineers from Cupertino are currently locked at home with no timetable instead of traveling to Foxconn/China in step with usual coordination 6 months before launch," Ives wrote.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Ives' note to investors follows a report from Nikkei Asian Review saying that Apple was considering a delay of "months" for the 5G iPhone.

Rumors of a delayed launch of the device have already been circulating throughout the month, amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and the resulting social and economic upheaval worldwide. A previous DigiTimes report had put the potential launch in the October timeframe.

A major delay in the 5G iPhone could be a blow to Apple at a time when the company is seeking to reverse its declining iPhone sales. Still, the company "has one shot at its first 5G launch," and "tepid success out of the gates due to a lukewarm consumer appetite would be a disaster scenario," Ives wrote.

The debut of the 5G iPhone "likely gets shelved until holiday season in our opinion," he wrote. However, that "does not change our long-term bullish view of Apple," Ives added.

Amid increases in global stock market indexes on Thursday, Apple's stock price was up about 2 percent to $250.84 a share as of mid-morning Eastern Time.

In mid-February—prior to the widening of the outbreak globally—Apple had revised its revenue guidance downward on coronavirus impacts. The company cited constrained production and lowered demand in China at the time.

In the final quarter of 2019—Apple's first fiscal quarter—the company had seen the return of iPhone sales growth "thanks to the exceptional demand for the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max," Apple CEO Tim Cook said during a call with analysts in January.

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