If you’re thinking of getting a new smartphone in the next couple of months, you might be restricted in your options. Foxconn, the company that makes some of the world’s biggest selling smartphones for companies like Apple has been forced to shut its factories in China and won’t be able to reopen them until the end of February, according to numerous reports following the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Foxconn’s factories across the country make phone after phone, hour after hour, from some of our favourite brands, fuelling our appetite for the latest devices. And while Foxconn and others do make some devices outside of China, the factories inside China are closed.
That means smartphone stock levels from the likes of Apple, Xiaomi, Nokia, and many others could be affected, possibly leading to demand issues and stock shortages. This too could have a knock-on effect up the supply chain just as companies want to be getting phones made and available for customers following their announcement.
The issue is likely to be compounded further by changes to launch plans for devices. The international trade show Mobile World Congress, held annually in Barcelona, Spain, is often the global launch venue for a large number of devices – especially from Chinese companies – and there’s already reports that some companies changing plans because of concerns around the coronavirus.
In a statement at the start of February, LG confirmed that, following concerns about the coronavirus, it has made the decision to cancel its presence at Mobile World Congress to “remove the risk” of exposing hundreds of employees to travel, which, it said, “has already become more restrictive as the virus continues to spread across borders”.
But the move could be more than just cancelling its reveal. Perhaps LG understands that there is little point to launching a device that can’t then be fulfilled with stock in stores. LG now plans to hold separate events “in the near future” to announce its 2020 smartphones, which is rumoured to include a follow-up to last year’s LG G8 ThinQ.
LG, the first to announce such a move, could delay the launch of its flagship phone to March or maybe even later. That could mean we might not see the phone in stores until April or May at the earliest.
And what about Apple? The factory closures, which will eventually amount to around a month are likely to affect the Apple Watch and AirPods Pro. Tim Cook and co already highlighted that stock constraints have been in affect ahead of the coronavirus for the popular Apple accessories and with a rumoured launch of both a new iPad Pro and possible “budget” iPhone SE 2 on the cards, these Chinese factory closures could force the company to push back those launches too.
One thing is for certain, while travel bans are in place in China and factories remain closed, those looking to upgrade their tech might have to wait for the latest must-have gadgets to be made before they can get hands on them in 2020.