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Staggered launch – Apple to split its product releases this Fall

According to the latest analysis from leaker Jon Prosser, Apple is planning to release its new products in waves this year rather than all at once. Though Prosser and his sources have a slightly sketchy track record, some of what he’s saying has been echoed by other channels. Tim Cook himself has admitted this year’s iPhone launch will be delayed by “a few weeks,” so we know that part is true – though Apple is unlikely to elaborate until its Fall event.

Usually, Apple’s plans are like clockwork: hold a special event in the second week of September each year to announce the latest iPhone range, along with any product updates to iPad or Apple Watch. Release the products a week or two later. Easy.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic allegedly causing supply issues, that timeframe is no longer feasible. Hence the suggestion that Apple will instead stagger its releases to better fit its manufacturing capabilities.

So: if these leaks are true, what should we expect on the schedule for the rest of 2020?

According to Prosser, we’ll get a new iPad of some kind and the next-generation Apple Watch via press release around September 7. This will be followed a month later on October 13 by Apple’s usual big Fall event in which the iPhone 12 lineup will be unveiled. As usual, preorders will open the week of the announcement, but release dates will be split. That means the regular iPhone 12 to ship on October 23, with the more expensive iPhone 12 Pro shipping some time in November.

While it’s not unheard of for Apple to release smaller product updates via press release instead of big events, we’re not entirely convinced by the timing here. What’s not mentioned is the public release date for iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and watchOS 7 – typically these come together, and we’re not sure whether Apple would release the software in September even if its new iPhones aren’t ready to show it off yet. But it could happen.

Apple prefers to show off new-generation Apple Watch tech at a keynote event, so it makes more sense to wait a few weeks and talk about it alongside iPhone 12 in October. Unless, of course, Apple has something even bigger planned that will take up all remaining stage time at the iPhone event. Something like, say, augmented reality glasses?

The part that’s less doubtful is that Apple will split the release of its four upcoming iPhone 12 models. Get the two standard handsets out the door first, with the Pro models to follow. Apple already did something similar in 2017 with the staggered release of iPhone 8 and iPhone X, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see it again. Only time will tell.