iPhone 12 delay looks official — and Qualcomm delivers the bad news

iPhone 12 Pro navy blue
(Image credit: Svetapple)

If you're trying to figure whether Apple will or won't delay this fall's iPhone 12 launch, you can chalk up another mark in the "will" column. This bit of evidence comes from Apple's one-time nemesis and current supplier Qualcomm.

The chipmaker announced its quarterly earnings today (July 29) — Qualcomm beat Wall Street expectations and announced a patent agreement with Huawei, if you care about such things — but the part that should pique the interest of Apple watchers was contained in the third-quarter forecast. 

Qualcomm told investors that it's expecting 5G handset shipments to be down year-over-year in part because one of its customers is delaying “global 5G flagship phone launch,” per a report at CNBC.

Apple makes its own mobile processors instead of using Qualcomm's Snapdragon chipsets. But Apple is getting its modems from Qualcomm, at least until it can build its hardware. And the iPhone 12 would certainly qualify as a "5G flagship phone."

The iPhone 12 lineup is expected to feature four new models, all of which will include 5G compatibility. While iPhones typically debut in September, there's been speculation that production delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic could push back that launch. Qualcomm's veiled warning to investors will only increase that speculation.

Qualcomm isn't the first Apple supplier to give us what seems like a clue about the iPhone 12's launch schedule. Back in June, Broadcom said a "large North American mobile phone" customer was facing a "major product delay." 

Since Broadcom supplies Apple with parts used in the iPhone, analysts assumed that statement was referencing the iPhone 12.

Just how big a delay we're looking at for the iPhone 12 remains a subject of debate. Some iPhone watchers point to an October release, while others fear the iPhone 12 may not ship until November. 

There's even talk that Apple could release its phone on a staggered schedule, rolling out the less expensive iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Max models first before the Pro models arrive.

Qualcomm's apparent warning of an iPhone 12 delay comes as rumors are beginning to point to a Sept. 8 date for the iPhone 12 unveiling. How long the phones arrive after that tentative date could be anyone's guess.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.