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'iPhone 12' September ship date endangered by engineering changes, closed testing labs

The iPhone 11 Pro & iPhone 11 Pro Max may be Apple's flagships for an extra month

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is seeing problems in the supply chain for certifying the 5G technology in the "iPhone 12" and believes that the mmWave versions will be pushed back because of some antenna design changes.

In a note to investors seen by AppleInsider, Ming-Chi Kuo of TF Securities believes that a change in the antenna in package (AiP) made in April may cause a problem for "iPhone 12" certification. The design change was reportedly made late in the design progress, because of the continuing impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Kuo believes that this has caused a one-month delay in the device entering the engineering verification test process. And, the laboratories required to validate the design are still closed, and can't offer test services to certify the design.

This will lead to mass production of the previously predicted 5.4- and 6.1-inch iPhones to September, according to Kuo. Furthermore, the mass production of the 6.7-inch "iPhone 12" will be pushed back to October.

Typically, iPhone mass production begins in late July or August for September availability. The iPhone X entered mass production in September for a late October and November availability.

Even given the potential later launch, Kuo believes that Apple is still a good buy. Risks for the company, and for investors, have more to do with consumer demand, and less to do with Apple's supply chain execution.

"We suggest that investors should focus more on the impacts of consumption downgrade on iPhone demand because we believe that Apple's execution could minimize any risk of development and mass production delay," writes Kuo. "Market demand is the most important for Apple and the supply chain."

Kuo believes that if the pandemic isn't under control until July, then 2020 iPhone shipments fall between 10% to 15%, to about 170 million units. And, should that be the case, less than 10% of them are predicted to be the faster 5G mmWave versions.

What we know about the 2020 "iPhone 12

Beyond 5G support, the 2020 iPhone is expected to get 3D depth sensing capabilities using the rear camera. It is also suggested Apple could bring back Touch ID by taking advantage of acoustic fingerprinting to turn the entire display into a fingerprint reader, something that has been featured in a few patent applications by the company.

Kuo believes that the "iPhone 12" will have four models, including 5.4-inch OLED with rear dual-cam, 6.1-inch OLED with rear dual-cam, 6.1-inch OLED with rear triple-cam plus time-of-flight sensors, and 6.7- inch OLED with rear triple-cam+ToF.