What happened to Apple's Tick-Tock schedule?

Posted on Sep 11, 2019

The Apple iPhone design schedule goes tick-tock. Tick is when they introduce a new design, and tock, the S-year, is when the use the same design and refresh the internals, with a couple of new features thrown in.

The release of the radically Home-button free iPhone X two years ago was the tick year. Last year’s XS, obviously is a tock, or S-year. This year, however, is another S year that followed last year’s S-year. Yes, it is indeed kinda out of sync with Apple’s schedule.

Whilst I do not have inside information on how Apple decisions, I can, however, just speculate. Apple’s product line-up goes far back. The iPhone X was probably two-three years in the making, the same can be said of the others. Apple does not release a new, innovative design, just for the sake of it. Yes, Apple isn’t perfect, but Apple has a better track record than most in having more hits than misses.

This year is very different. Speculating further, Apple must have intended 2019 as a tick year – a newly designed iPhone. That would mean that Apple’s supply chain investment should have started last year – that is just how Apple rolls, investing new machines at Foxconn in China. The new machines are needed for the new design.

The US-China trade relationship is very volatile - you cannot predict what will happen next. This uncertainty is very risky for the likes of Apple to invest in Foxconn in China. So Apple is maximizing what it already has in Foxconn - the machines to churn out iPhone X designed devices, hence the X-series, and now the 11 series. If I read the tea leaves right, Foxconn is feeling the pinch as well, and perhaps planning to add manufacturing facilities outside of China.

I am sure that next year’s iPhone will re-start the tick-tock schedule, and perhaps with Apple investing in another manufacturer, or with partner Foxconn, but in another country, which has a solid trade relationship with the US.

What do you think?