When Apple unveiled the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and iPhone X earlier this month, it was immediately obvious which device had captured the public’s imagination. The reviews on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus give those devices simultaneous high marks for yet another iteration of what is, fundamentally, an excellent phone, while simultaneously telling everyone that the real iPhone you want, the one that represents the future of devices, is the $999 iPhone X–not the iPhone 8 / 8 Plus. Now there are rumors that the first iPhone X’s destined for consumer hands may not have even been built yet.
According to Raymond James analyst Christopher Caso (via Barrons), the iPhone X won’t begin production until mid-October, just weeks before the device is set to go on sale. Even then, it won’t be in full production. That’s a full three months later than Apple reported expected, and it’s going to put a serious crimp on total output. Caso notes that this has implications for what investors should expect from Apple’s quarterly results.
That’s probably understating things, though it depends on exactly how many customers opt for an iPhone X as opposed to an iPhone 8 or 8 Plus. Here, things aren’t encouraging. Reception for the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus was muted, Apple shares are down 6.3 percent as of this writing since September 11, and the crowds that typically stretch for blocks when Apple launches a new product have been downright sparse.
According to data from Business Insider earlier this year, Americans still upgrade their smartphones roughly every 23 months. That means the Apple customers most likely to jump for an iPhone 8 today aren’t iPhone 7 owners, but people who bought in when the 6s / 6s Plus were new. The iPhone 6 / 6 Plus were bigger sellers, thanks to previously untapped demand for large-screen Apple devices, but there’s still a healthy crop of two-year-old Apple phones on the market.
If Apple can’t ship the iPhone X in volume, would-be customers could be forced to wait weeks or months for new devices. That could put some off upgrading altogether, particularly those who find the iPhone X’s price tag hard to swallow but that also aren’t particularly enthused about any of the iPhone 8’s new features. Tim Cook has historically been very good at managing Apple’s supply chain, but no deal-making wizardry can make hardware appear faster than a company can build it.
The key figure to watch here will be how quickly Apple’s shipping estimate rises, assuming the company continues to update it (not all companies do; some remove them altogether in an effort to stop bad press). If shipment delays skyrocket and keep climbing for several weeks, it’ll point to ongoing problems meeting demand. This could be Apple’s strongest quarter ever for iPhone sales, or one of the worst, depending on how customers break and whether the company can solve its supply issues.
Now read: Apple iPhone X vs. iPhone 8 Plus vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 8: Specs Compared