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iPhone 12 news gets worse: Coronavirus threatens significant delay

(Image credit: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

The iPhone 12's highly-anticipated 2020 launch might not take place in September, as coronavirus outbreak have caused widespread factory shutdowns and manufacturing limitations that could alter Apple's usual keynote schedule.

COVID-2019 has claimed over 2,700 lives and infected over 80,000 more. The virus has also inhibited travel and complicated overseas business operations, magnifying its global reach. The tech market in particular is facing significant disruption, with one of the year's biggest product launches — the iPhone 12 — cast in doubt.

Apple's next generation flagship was expected to launch in September, which may seem far off,  but a Reuters report suggests that these two months of factory shutdowns and travel restrictions will impact the 2020 iPhone's ability to arrive on regular schedule.

According to supply chain experts and former Apple employees, this time of year is when company engineers travel to China to map out with assembly lines for prototypes. Because Apple uses custom parts, February is a key month for finalizing plans before full-fledged manufacturing for fall iPhones begins.

Although iPhone 12 production wouldn't ramp up until the summer, current factory shutdowns and limited communication in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak are expected to slow down the typical timeline. 

"You’re really talking about two lost months, which in the consumer electronics cycle is huge,” an executive at a semiconductor firm told Reuters.

Apple declined to comment to Reuters, so it's unconfirmed that the iPhone 12 production is behind schedule. However, the virus already caused Apple issue a warning about missing its March revenue targets as factory shutdowns are cutting into its supply of current iPhones. The company also closed its China stores for several weeks last month, and has only reopened half its locations since.

There are rumors that the iPhone SE 2, or iPhone 9, is currently facing a production delay, too. Although several signs point to a budget iPhone debuting at the end of March, Apple has not confirmed that such a device is even in development. 

Apple isn't the only tech company feeling the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. Mobile World Congress, the industry's largest phone show, was cancelled after several high-profile attendees pulled out over health concerns. 

Game Developers Conference is also in limbo, as companies like Facebook and Sony (and its PS5) have already said they won't be participating in San Francisco-based show. 

Samsung, meanwhile, had to shut down the factory that makes the Galaxy Z Flip after an employee contracted the virus.