iPhone 13 launch looks to be on schedule based on Apple's earnings call

iPhone 13 dummy units
(Image credit: Sonny Dickson)

For people looking for hints about the iPhone 13 launch during Apple's third-quarter earning announcement today (July 27), no news could be good news.

Apple didn't offer any specific guidance about the iPhone 13's launch during its briefing with Wall Street analysts, which is hardly unusual — Apple almost never comments on future products. But the lack of news surrounding any upcoming iPhone releases was a far cry from Apple's June quarter report a year ago.

If you cast your mind back to 2020, that year-ago call kicked off with Apple telling Wall Street analysts that the fall's iPhone launch would happen "a few weeks later" than the the normal September roll out. Indeed, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro didn't arrive until October 2020 while two other iPhone models appeared a few months later.

That didn't hurt Apple's iPhone sales over the long term — these days, Apple finds itself "heartened by our customers' response to the iPhone 12 lineup." But memories of that pandemic-triggered delay still make some people skittish about this year's round of product launches.

History didn't repeat itself in 2021. While Apple did hint at supply constraints impacting the iPhone and iPad in the September quarter, that's a long ways from telling investors and customers to expect delays. Even with the supply constraints, chief financial officer Luca Maestri told Wall Street that Apple anticipated "very strong double-digit revenue growth during the September quarter year-over-year," if not quite at the level of the just-completed June quarter.

So if you side with rumors that Apple is targeting a September launch for the next iPhones, you probably emerged from this earnings call just as confident as you were before.

Logan Purk, a technology analyst with Edward Jones, notes the supply constraints Apple is talking about involve older parts. "The advanced or cutting-edge node components don't seem to be experiencing supply constraints," he said.

Apple plans its orders well in advance, so the iPhone 13 should be all right, at least initially, Purk added: "I think this ultimately impacts how many iPhones they potentially sell and not the actual release date."

iPhone 12 sales remain strong

It would be hard to beat Apple's mood after its fiscal third quarter. For the three months ended in June, Apple saw its sales grow 36% to $81.4 billion, with double-digit growth across all of its product categories. That's particularly the case with the iPhone, where strong demand for the iPhone 12 pushed sales up 50% to just less than $39.6 billion.

"Obviously, the product itself is amazing," Cook told analysts. "The iPhone 12 lineup was a huge leap forward that introduced 5G [to Apple's phones] and had the A14 Bionic [chip] and had a number of other fantastic features customers loved."

Traditionally, strong sales like the iPhone 12 has enjoyed could mean that Apple's next phone doesn't find as receptive an audience. But Cook told analysts that 5G could be a variable, as more people look to upgrade to the new wireless networking standard. To that end, recent reports have suggested Apple's boosting iPhone 13 production to meet the growing demand for 5G phones. (Apple has yet to confirm this report, and didn't even address it during this week's analyst call.)

Besides iPhones, Apple's biggest sales growth came from the services division, where revenue picked up 33% to just under $17.5 billion for the June quarter. That was helped by the fact that Apple now has the largest installed base of active devices in its history. Apple has also seen paid subscriptions across various services jump to 700 million, up by 150 million over the year-ago quarter.

iPhone 13 outlook

Apple opting not to give a specific warning about iPhone launches the way did a year ago doesn't necessarily mean the iPhone 13 launch will go off without a hitch. There are those aforementioned supply constraints, and Apple noted that any setbacks in the COVID-19 recovery could alter its outlook. But for the most part everything appears quiet on the iPhone 13 font — and that's good news at this point.

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.