If you sit by the Internet long enough, an iPhone-is-delayed rumor will stream by

Every year, just around the time a new iPhone is generally considered to be on the horizon - like the currently rumored though unannounced iPhone 5s - stories start to circulate that this new - rumored though unannounced - iPhone is facing delays. Or, DELAYS! Generally the stories are tied to some new - also rumored though unannounced - bit of technology that would make this year's iPhone better, faster, stronger, or just plain geeky-cooler than the one before. It could be new type of display or a new authentication technology, a new material or new radio part. It doesn't seem to matter what really. It only seems to matter that it will cause a DELAY! It's gotten to the point that if you sit by the internet long enough, the body of that story will absolutely stream by.

Predictable as it is, boring as it's become, sensational as it may be, in fairness it's not without reason.

Apple pushes the limits. That's what they do. I've said it before and I'll say it again - no other company in the world could have manufactured the iPhone 5 last year. Not only did Apple design it, they designed a lot of the equipment needed to make it, and they did it for a single device intended to sell in the hundreds of millions. It's the result of a unique set of capabilities, resources, and circumstances in the market.

For all the bitching about "boring, still a phone!" we endured last year, Apple rebuilt the iPhone 5 almost from the atom up, and they didn't do it because they needed to. They did it because they were driven to. They like the idea that the stuff they make isn't only hard to make, but nearly impossible to make. It's why it took other companies years to reproduce anything approaching a MacBook Air. Something financially, computationally, or temporally hard to make can be harder still to replicate. (iOS 7 is the same approach applied to software.)

That attitude, however, that willingness to push limits and boundaries and create new things comes at a price. It's expensive in multiple ways, and it's dangerous to budgets, timelines, and resources.

Making new things means being subject to and dependent upon innumerable, chaotic conditions and factors. It's why Apple has the leadership and teams they do, including Tim Cook, and why they have multiple suppliers, windows of opportunity for launch, and all sorts of other mechanisms built in to ensure they can keep doing it year after year, product after product.

And it's why, year after year, product after product, we get rumors of this or that component shortage or manufacturing problem, and always, every time, incessant repetition of the word delay. Delay. DELAY!

Maybe one supplier has one problem with one cutting-edge component, but other suppliers are just fine. Doesn't matter. It gets out and DELAY! What if no one has a problem and someone, somewhere, just wants to mess with Apple's stock price? DELAY!

The iPhone 5s - or whatever Apple calls their new iPhone(s) this year - hasn't been delayed. It hasn't even been announced. No iPhone has ever been delayed. Constrained at and following launch? Sure. But delayed? Never. Even in 2011, when the iPhone 4S switched to a fall release window from a summer one, it was made known months in advance, well before WWDC, and it shipped right when it was intended to.

So if someone wants to strap on their annual Apple is doomed pants and scream DELAY, like clockwork, across the internet, and work up a market that is long past knowing better but keeps getting manipulated anyway, that's fine. That's what they do. They figure out when they can launch a great new product, invite the media about a week before hand, announce it, and then ship it immediately to a few weeks after.

It's what happened last year and every year before, and it's what'll happen this year and every year for the foreseeable future.

The truth is, only Apple can doom Apple, and one of the signs that would presage that happening is when Apple no longer cares about pushing the limits and boundaries. And, ironically, that's when the DELAYED! stories will stop.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Question. Why the picture of evil, alternate dimension Willow?
  • Bored now Sent from the iMore App
  • I second this question. Although the pic was the main reason I even bothered to click on the article... So maybe it worked?
  • Dude above answered the question :) That said, I like the picture too!
  • Yeah, to be fair the only reason I clicked the link was because of the picture ... but only to get answers as to why iMore was using that picture inparticular
  • Yeah, who's the cute gal?
  • Alyson Hannigan, specifically playing the evil verson of her character in Buffy The Vampire Slayer
  • "What Apple does is figure out when they can launch a great product, then invite the media a week before hand, announce it, and ship it immediately to a few weeks after." The MacPro says hi. Otherwise this seems like an article explaining why Apple is always delayed by deflecting blame.
  • Reading it first helps! :)
  • I'm assuming you are not talking about the Mac Pro. That little computer put a big kink in your argument. If what you said is correct, then you are figuring the next iPhone to be one of the most revolutionary products ever made (after all innovation takes time, and just sticking a new cpu and camera isn't considered innovation). Since Apple doesn't use off the shelf parts to launch new products, can you explain what Apple did to innovate with the new MacBook Air? I'm not sure Apple needs any excuses or crutches, and they certainly don't need to be treated like Apple from 2000. Apple of 2013 is the largest technology company of the world and has business practices that run afoul of the law. All they really need is to invest more in R&D and stop doing stuff like treating developer conferences as press junkets. Why shouldn't people hold Apple to higher standards when it comes to delivering product? Notice nobody talks about Apple being delayed in the retail sector? Why not? Because they operate like hungry company when opening new stores, each one more exciting than the last (every single store is a unique retail experience). The Apple you talk about would open a new store once a year
  • Well said Richard. You have deconstructed the fanboy mentality of this article.
  • I want the time I took to read this article back.
  • Slow comment day? ;)
  • Using the word "fanboy" means you lack capacity to frame and compose a cogent argument. I've asked you before to raise the level of discussion here. I'll ask it again. Next step is a time out :)
  • One computer once - the new Mac Pro - invalidates a consistent history of timely product releases? I think not. Nor is it central to the discussion above: Apple has announced no delays. Apple has never announced a delay for an iPhone. Apple has always shipped the iPhone within their expected shipping window. Even in 2011, they made certain it was widely known that that launch window was switching to fall. Yet every year, we get stories of the iPhone being delayed. I attempt to defend those stories by saying that using bleeding edge parts inevitably leads to concerns over shortages, but such concerns have only ever manifested themselves in availability, never in delays. If I communicated that poorly in the article, my apologies, but nothing in your response seems to address anything I actually said, in this universe or one in which I'm a clown made of candy. :)
  • Touché! Nice job, Rene!
  • An iPhone is never late. Not is it early. It arrives precisely when it means to!
  • Expect it when you see it.
  • I agree Rene. How in the hell can a product that was never announced as shipping by a certain date be delayed? You have said it before, that it may not be ready for release by when Apple wants it internally, but I say good for them for not over promising and under delivering to us, the consumer. Hell, as a business owner myself, I want everything done yesterday, but it ain't happening! Not to roll RIM under the bus but if anyone wants a textbook case of delayed, I present to you the PlayBook and BB10.
  • Someone always has to throw out a fanboy comment. How boring and cliché.
  • Someone always has to throw out a trollish comment. How boring and cliché (sic).
  • "They like the idea that the stuff they make isn't only hard to make, but nearly impossible to make." LOL. you have read too much Daring Fireball, Rene. Seriously, if they like the challenge, why do we not see an image-stabilized iPhone camera or anything like the Nokia 1020 from Apple? Anything... new? Out of the box thinking? Long-term R&D efforts? No, because Apple likes to do rather mundane stuff but make it seem complicated by wrapping it in marketing nonsense. iPhone 5 is simply iPhone 4S with some spec tweaks. *That* is how hard they want to try these days.
  • That's a huge compliment, thanks! But think this through: Apple made a choice. Making the iPhone 5 as thin as they did meant very little depth for the camera module, and if there's one thing cameras need it's depth. Personally, I would have been happy with a slightly thicker iPhone 5 with an OIS camera and a bigger battery, but that's not the choice Apple made. You can push boundaries, but you still face opportunity costs. Doing one thing means you lose the ability to do something else. Now, being able to make the camera they did in the iPhone 5 is a miracle of engineering. It's a better camera than almost anything else on the market, in many situations better than what Nokia did with the 920, and they did it with almost no Z-index. Your comments about nothing new, no long-term R&D efforts, etc. likewise don't reflect reality. The iPhone 5 was an entirely new phone, Apple just made it look like an iPhone 4S. New manufacturing process, new screen technology (in-cell), new LTE radios, new home-spun A6 processor (hey, long term R&D win!). The list goes on and on. I'd look into what Apple's doing a little more, you're missing out on a lot.
  • I second the motion about I wish they would make it a little thicker and give us more battery and overall power. Frankly it feels like everyone and Apple in particular are bound for making phones/tablets like a sheet of paper, but until we have zero point energy that can give us all we want for nothing, I'd rather err on the side of a little bit bigger with more capacity.
  • "iPhone 5 is simply iPhone 4S with some spec tweaks."
    I can't believe how clueless people can be. Just because it might look similar doesnt mean its the same. And how come no one ever says this about competitor products? The S4 looks similar to the S3. Lumia phones haven't changed much from an aesthetic design perspective. Yet people rave about these phones...
  • You are fucking insane if you believe that.
  • Excellent article. As a person who works in product development, I know how hard it is to schedule the creation of something new from nothing. The one thing I ask of Apple is this: WAIT until your products are perfect, THEN release them. Apple typically does that, and I will gladly wait as long as necessary to GET IT RIGHT.
    That's the difference between a great company and an average company.
  • Amen. Though, first generation new products seem harder. The 2nd generation iPad, Air, etc. were all far, far better than the first.
  • Exactly. And not "getting it right before shipping" is probably a major reason why Scott Forstall was shown the door. Sounds like he was a "ship it on time no matter what" kind of manager.
  • Can not agree more with the author of this brilliant text. One thing I just want to add. iOS 7 comes out this fall. Why the new iPhone would be out earlier? I guess this is the most single logical conclusion anyone can make till now (judging only from Apple's official statements).
  • Bloggers write about three things:
    1. Actual news and opinion
    2. Stuff they make up
    3. Stuff other bloggers make up I think all the iPhone 5S rumor delays fall into category 3. Tech bloggers make stuff up ("iPhone 5S is going to be late") then that meme gets copied by other bloggers and it lasts a few days until somebody else blogs about some newer, fresher meme that then gets reblogged around. Especially if that meme generates page hits. Oh well. Bloggers gonna blog. Gotta maintain those page hits even between Apple announcements, now don't we? We won't know the truth until products are announced. With ship dates.