iPhone 13 launch date: Apple just gave us a big hint

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Apple posted monster earnings on Wednesday, reporting $81.43 billion in revenue. The iPhone was a huge driver during the June quarter, with iPhone revenue up nearly 50% year over year. The iPhone accounted for $39.5 billion in revenue for the period. Apple touched on various aspects of its business during the earnings call, not just the iPhone. But it’s not just what Apple said in its remarks on Wednesday that matters most for iPhone fans. Unlike a year ago, Apple did not say the next-gen iPhone will arrive later than usual. So it looks like the iPhone 13 will launch on time.

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In late July 2020, Apple CFO Luca Maestri had this to say about the iPhone 12 launch:

Similar to last quarter, given the uncertainty around the world in the near term, we will not be issuing revenue and margin guidance for the coming quarter. However, we will provide some additional insight on our expectations for the September quarter for our product categories.

Apple went on to hold three virtual events in September, October, and November. But the iPhone 12 press conference came in October, a month later than usual. Two of the four iPhone 12 flavors launched later that month. The remaining two hit stores a few days into November.

iPhone 13 launch estimates

Several reports earlier this year indicated that Apple has been making preparations to have enough key iPhone 13 components on hand. Apple never comments on supply rumors, so we’ll never know whether insiders get it right. But leaks claimed that Apple has started procuring iPhone 13 chips and OLED panels early. Some estimates say that Apple wants to manufacture 90 million iPhone 13 units in 2021. That’s a significant increase over previous years.

These moves indicated that Apple is looking to stay ahead of the current shortages but also the health crisis. The pandemic isn’t over, with the delta wave having swept Asia before reaching other parts of the world. The health crisis could still impact production, so there were no guarantees that the iPhone 13 would launch on time.

Apple’s earnings call for the June 2021 quarter seems to confirm the iPhone 13 launch keynote will drop on time. Apple did not offer a heads-up that the 2021 iPhone launch would be delayed.

Supply constraints incoming

Apple refrained from offering guidance for the September quarter. Even so, Maestri did mention “some directional insights” about the next quarter, “assuming that the COVID-related impacts to our business do not worsen from what we are projecting today for the current quarter.” These included supply constraints that will impact the iPhone in the coming quarter:

We expect very strong double digit year over year revenue growth during the September quarter. We expect revenue growth to be lower than our June quarter, year over year growth of 36 percent for three reasons. First, we expect the foreign exchange impact on our year over year growth rate to be three points less favorable than it was during the June quarter. Second, we expect our services growth rate to return to a more typical level. The growth rate during the June quarter benefited from a favorable compare.

Certain services were significantly impacted by the COVID lockdowns a year ago. And third was we expect supply constraints during the September quarter to be greater than what we experienced during the June quarter. The constraints will primarily impact iPhone and iPad. We expect gross margin to be between forty one point five 41.5 and five 42.5 percent, we expect OpEx to be between 11.3 and 11.5 billion dollars. We expect ONIE to be around zero, excluding any potential impact from the mark to market of minority investments and our tax rate to be around 16 percent.

It’s unclear whether the iPhone and iPad shortages will impact the iPhone 13 supply after launch. But, if previous rumors are correct, Apple wants to manufacture some 90 million iPhone units this year.

That said, there are no guarantees that the iPhone 13 will launch in mid-September. We still have to wait for Apple’s official keynote announcement.

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