Apple CEO to Take COVID-19 Questions at Virtual Company-Wide Meeting Later This Month

Apple CEO Tim Cook will hold a company-wide virtual meeting later this month for employees to ask questions about working-from-home arrangements that have been put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, Apple sent a note to staff on Wednesday advising them of the plan.
It asked that questions be submitted by end of day on Saturday and also encouraged workers to share their experiences of working through the disruption to daily life that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about. The specific date of the meeting has not yet been disclosed.
Apple last week informed employees that its retail stores in the United States will remain closed until early May, and Apple employees will continue to work from home until then.

In Santa Clara County, where Apple Park, Infinite Loop, and many other corporate offices and retail stores are located, there is a shelter in place order that will remain in effect until May 3.

The order prevents all nonessential businesses from being open and requires employees to work from home. Apple's corporate offices will not be able to reopen until that order is lifted.

Apple continues to review its flexible work arrangements in light of the latest guidance from local governments and public health experts.

In an earlier memo to employees, Apple said it was particularly focused on ensuring parents have the flexibility to adjust their schedules as necessary, with many children no longer able to attend school.
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Bloomberg: iPhone 12 Still on Course for Fall Launch Despite COVID-19 Disruption

The iPhone 12 is on course for a fall launch despite disruptions to mobile manufacturing in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, according to Bloomberg, citing people familiar with Apple's supply chain.

Apple’s next flagship iPhones, with 5G wireless capabilities, are still on schedule to launch in the fall, although that's partly because mass production isn't due to begin until May, said the people. They asked not to be identified discussing private supply chain issues.
Apple typically announces its latest flagship smartphones in September, with mass production beginning in May, which usually gives assemblers and component suppliers time to manufacture and amass units for shipping later in the fall.

Earlier this month, a Bloomberg report cited Bank of America analysts claiming that Apple's 5G iPhone could be delayed to due to the coronavirus outbreak. The analysts said Apple's ‌‌5G iPhone‌‌ release could be delayed by a month because of restrictions put in place on Apple employees visiting China earlier in the year to perfect assembly processes with manufacturing partners like Foxconn.

Those delays had the potential to eat into the time Apple needs to finalize orders for chips and other ‌iPhone‌ components that need to be made well in advance of when full production begins. However, supply chain experts told Reuters in late February that Apple still has time to keep the ‌‌‌iPhone‌‌‌ schedule on track, despite the travel restrictions.

Apple plans to release four so-called iPhone 12 models in the fall, including one 5.4-inch model, two 6.1-inch models, and one 6.7-inch model, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. All of the devices are expected include OLED displays and support 5G, and they may sport a new design that includes more of a flat edged metal frame like the iPad Pro or ‌iPhone‌ 4.

Meanwhile, Apple's new ‌iPad Pro‌ models begin shipping next week. Production of those devices likely started at the top of the year, according to Bloomberg, although DigiTimes today reports that Apple is in the process of ramping up ‌iPad Pro‌ shipments, with volume for the new tablet series from the suppliers to climb about 40 percent sequentially in the second quarter.

Apple this week set worldwide purchase limits on its newly updated ‌iPad Pro‌ and MacBook Air models, its entire range of ‌iPhone‌ models, and the Mac mini on its online stores. Apple often places purchase limits on products in some Asian countries to combat the gray market, but the expanded restrictions are thought to be an effort to balance supply and demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Related Roundup: iPhone 12

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Foxconn Expects to Resume Normal Production at Chinese Plants by End of March

iPhone assembler Foxconn expects its Chinese plants to resume normal operation by the end of the month after fixing labor shortages resulting from the coronavirus outbreak (via Bloomberg).


The first quarter of the year is typically quiet for Apple and its Taiwanese ‌iPhone‌ supplier after a boom in sales over the holiday season. However, ongoing delays from the coronavirus outbreak in China could cause Apple to miss its schedule for mass producing its upcoming low-cost iPhone, according to at least one report.
"As of today, the production resumption has reached 50% of seasonal required capacity. Based on the current schedule, we shall be able to reach full seasonal capacity by the end of March," [Foxconn] said in a stock exchange filing. "There are still plenty of uncertainties which we cannot quantify around the potential impact on the full year."
Apple was planning to begin mass production on the low-cost ‌‌iPhone‌‌ in February, but sources that spoke to Nikkei last month said that meeting that target was "very challenging" and production could be delayed until March.

Current rumors have suggested Apple plans to unveil the new ‌‌iPhone‌‌ at an event that's set to take place in March, perhaps on March 31, with Apple then releasing the device on April 3. Though there are issues with production, multiple sources have said the new ‌‌iPhone‌‌ is still going to launch on time.

Foxconn slashed its 2020 revenue outlook in early February after it imposed strict quarantines at its main base in China to guard against the coronavirus outbreak. The manufacturer previously claimed the viral outbreak had had a "fairly small impact" on ‌‌iPhone‌‌ production, but since then the virus has spread to 70 countries and is responsible for 90,000 infections and 3,000 deaths, most of which have occurred in China.



Related Roundup: iPhone SE 2

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Limited iPad Pro Availability May Suggest Imminent Launch of New Models

iPad Pro models are currently showing limited availability at stores in major cities in the U.S., Australia and across Europe, Boomberg's Mark Gurman reported today.


According to a review of Apple's website that was conducted on Monday, the non-cellular 12.9-inch ‌iPad Pro‌ with 512GB storage is sold out at all Apple stores in the Los Angeles area, while the same model and other versions are also sold out at many stores in New York City.
Some Apple store employees said they started noticing reduced ‌iPad Pro‌ inventory in the last week. They asked not to be identified discussing private product information.
Gurman's report leads by speculating that the supply constraints may be a possible sign of the coronavirus outbreak's impact on Apple's manufacturing supply chain, but he also concedes that the shortages could be due to new incoming ‌iPad Pro‌ models. Apple sometimes slows the flow of product units coming into its various sales channels as the next-generation models approach launch.

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo expects Apple to launch an upgraded ‌iPad Pro‌ during the first half of 2020, perhaps as early as this month, with Apple planning to release a next-generation model with a rear-facing time-of-flight (ToF) camera system supporting 3D sensing for immersive augmented reality experiences.

Recent rumors suggest Apple is planning to hold an event on Tuesday, March 31, so if new iPad Pros are in the works for the first half of 2020, they could well be announced at this event.

However, even if an announcement is imminent, it's still possible the new ‌iPad Pro‌ model supplies could be constrained or delayed due to a slowdown in production caused by the coronavirus outbreak in China. A DigiTimes report last month claimed the new ‌‌iPad Pro‌‌ models have been slow to ramp up following the extended Lunar New Year holiday, although the Taiwan-based website maintained that launch of the new devices is expected "around March."

Gurman notes that AirPods Pro and built-to-order Macs are also continuing to show shipping delays, and some Apple Watch Series 3 and Series 5 models are listed as unavailable to buy online, although the Series 3 watch and Airpods Pro were constrained before the viral outbreak was reported.

Apple's latest iPhones and other iPads remain widely available in the U.S., although the iPhone 11 is listed as unavailable in some European countries and Australia.

In addition to the new ‌iPad Pro‌‌, rumors suggest Apple is planning to release a new low-cost iPhone and an updated 13-inch MacBook Pro, while more outlying launch possibilities for the first half of 2020 include a MacBook Air update, Apple's Tile-like "AirTags" item trackers, and perhaps a wireless charging mat.

Apple recently said it wouldn't meet its guidance for the March quarter due to the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus, citing both constrained iPhone supplies worldwide and lower customer demand for Apple products in China as the main impacts on performance for the quarter.

Related Roundup: iPad Pro

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Bloomberg: Apple Loses Two Veteran Operations Executives

Apple has lost two long-serving operations executives, including its VP in charge of manufacturing design and a longtime iPhone operations executive who moved to its AR division, reports Bloomberg's Mark Gurman.


Nick Forlenza, a vice president of manufacturing design, has retired from Apple, while Duco Pasmooij, another vice president who worked on operations, is discussing an exit in the near future, according to people familiar with the moves. Pasmooij left the operations team over a year ago, moving into a role reporting to the company’s head of augmented reality efforts, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing personnel.
According to the report, Forlenza had worked under Sabih Kahn, Apple's senior VP of operations, as an executive in charge of manufacturing design. Forlenza led a team of supply chain and operations executives responsible for global production processes and manufacturing equipment.

Pasmooij helped lead production operations for the ‌iPhone‌ for many years, but had recently reported to Mike Rockwell, the vice president in charge of augmented reality and virtual reality efforts. The personnel moves aren't related to each other, nor to the recent supply chain disruptions owing to the coronavirus outbreak, according Gurman's sources.

Apple has about 100 vice presidents who help CEO Tim Cook and the senior executive team run the company.


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Spotify May Be Allowed to Stream Directly on HomePod and Set as Default Music App in iOS 14

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman today reported that Apple is working to allow third-party music services like Spotify and Pandora to be streamed directly on the HomePod with Siri in a future software update, as is possible with Apple Music. Spotify currently can only be streamed on the HomePod via AirPlay.


The report adds that Apple is also considering allowing third-party music services to be set as default in iOS 14, which would let users ask Siri to stream music from the likes of Spotify without specifying "with Spotify" at the end of the command. Siri currently defaults to Apple Music for these requests.

In early 2019, Spotify announced that it had filed an antitrust complaint against Apple with the European Commission over unfair ‌App Store‌ practices. At the time, Spotify took issue with Siri's lack of Spotify support on both iOS devices — which has since changed to a limited extent — and the HomePod.

An excerpt from its "Time to Play Fair" website — the wording has since been tweaked:
Apple ignores users' preferred choice of music service and instead steers them to use Apple Music exclusively. So can you ask Siri to play your favorite playlist from Spotify? No, not even if you actively want Spotify to be your default streaming service. Or can you listen to Spotify through your Apple HomePod? Sorry, no luck with that either. And by the way, Spotify is available on pretty much every other speaker device out there.
Apple has faced increasing scrutiny as of late over the way it runs its ‌App Store‌, beyond Spotify's complaint. Allowing third-party apps to be set as default would certainly help alleviate some of those concerns.

More Coverage: Bloomberg: Apple May Let iOS Users Set Third-Party Web Browser and Mail Apps as Defaults Over Stock Apps

Related Roundup: HomePod
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Neutral)

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Bloomberg: Apple May Let iOS Users Set Third-Party Web Browser and Mail Apps as Defaults Over Stock Apps

Apple is considering whether to let iPhone and iPad users set third-party mail and browser apps as defaults instead of the mobile operating system's preference for its own Safari and Mail stock apps. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman:

The technology giant is discussing whether to let users choose third-party web browser and mail applications as their default options on Apple’s mobile devices, replacing the company’s Safari browser and Mail app, according to people familiar with the matter.
The potential move comes after criticism that the tech giant gives its in-house apps an unfair advantage and undue prominence on the App Store. As it stands, Apple doesn't allow users to replace pre-installed apps like Safari and Mail with third-party services, opening it up to scrutiny from lawmakers investigating possible antitrust violations.

The report also claims that Apple is considering opening its HomePod speaker to third-party music services like Spotify.
The Cupertino, California-based company also is considering loosening restrictions on third-party music apps, including its top streaming rival Spotify Technology SA, on HomePods, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing internal company deliberations.
Currently, Spotify and other third-party music services can be streamed from ‌iPhone‌ or ‌iPad‌ to ‌HomePod‌ using Apple's AirPlay technology, but it's an ungainly alternative solution than just allowing users to stream third-party music services from the speaker directly.

As Gurman notes, opening the ‌HomePod‌ to additional music services could benefit the product's sales. The speaker has lagged behind rivals like the Amazon Echo in functionality since being introduced in 2018 and owns less than 5 percent of the smart-speaker market, according to an estimate last week from Strategy Analytics.

Whether the discussions include opening the ‌HomePod‌'s integrated Bluetooth technology to Bluetooth streaming devices is unknown. Currently, Bluetooth is used during the ‌HomePod‌'s setup process, but is otherwise rendered dormant in the speaker, which means only Apple devices can stream audio to ‌HomePod‌ using the ‌AirPlay‌ protocol.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Neutral)

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Bloomberg: ‘iPhone SE 2’ Launch Still on Course for March Despite Coronavirus Outbreak, New iPad Pro Models in First Half of 2020

Bloomberg this morning reports that Apple's new low-cost iPhone is still on course for launch next month, despite the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on production, although new iPad Pro models originally scheduled for the first half of 2020 could yet face delays or constraints.

Image via @Onleaks
The [low-cost ‌iPhone‌] is still on track to launch in March, though the plans are still fluid, according to people familiar with the matter. Apple has also been preparing updated ‌iPad Pro‌ models with a new camera system for the first half of 2020 and the virus may yet impose delays or constraints on those plans.
Bloomberg's sources don't conflict with noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo's latest predictions for the new low-cost ‌iPhone‌, which is rumored to be based on the iPhone 8, but with upgraded internals. In a research note seen yesterday by MacRumors, Kuo reiterated his belief that the "iPhone 9" or "‌iPhone SE 2"‌ is still expected to launch in the first half of this year in spite of the impact of the viral outbreak on production.

Rumors have been pointing toward a significant ‌iPad Pro‌ update in the first half of this year, including a new triple-lens rear camera system supporting 3D sensing for immersive augmented reality experiences. Today's report also broadly aligns with claims made on Monday by DigiTimes that production on the new ‌iPad Pro‌ models has been slow to ramp up following the extended Lunar New Year holiday, although the Taiwan-based website maintains that launch of the new devices is still expected "around March."

Aside from potential delays, Apple's spring media events have often occurred in March, and the list of products with rumored imminent updates has pointed toward one of those spring events being held again this year. A report yesterday claimed that Apple plans to hold a media event at the very end of March, with Tuesday, March 31 being the most likely date. The launch of the new low-cost ‌iPhone‌ is said to follow on Friday, April 3.

In addition to the new low-cost ‌‌iPhone‌, rumors suggest Apple is planning to release an updated 13-inch MacBook Pro, while more outlying launch possibilities for the first half of 2020 include a MacBook Air update, Apple's Tile-like "AirTags" item trackers, and perhaps a wireless charging mat.

Related Roundups: iPad Pro, iPhone SE 2

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Foxconn Warns Staff to Keep Away From Shenzhen iPhone Plant as Virus Prevention Efforts Continue

Apple's main iPhone assembler Foxconn has told employees not to return to work at its Shenzhen facility in China when the extended Lunar New Year break ends on February 10, according to a memo obtained by Bloomberg.

"To safeguard everyone's health and safety and comply with government virus prevention measures, we urge you not to return to Shenzhen," Foxconn wrote in a text message sent to employees. "We'll update you on the situation in the city. The company will protect everyone's work-related rights and interests in the duration. As for the happy reunion date in Shenzhen, please wait for further notice."
Foxconn has reportedly halted almost all of its production in China as the government and businesses attempt to contain the coronavirus outbreak in the country, where more than 31,000 cases have been reported so far.

It's unclear whether the Shenzhen policy extends to all employees or to Foxconn's other facilities. Earlier this week, the ‌iPhone‌ manufacturer said it planned to resume full-scale production by February 10. Other Apple suppliers such as Quanta Computer, Inventec and LG Display also said they would go back to work next week in China, but sticking to that plan seems less certain by the day.
"As a matter of policy and for reasons of commercial sensitivity, we do not comment on our specific production facilities," Foxconn told Bloomberg. "We have been closely monitoring the current public health challenge linked to the coronavirus and we are applying all recommended health and hygiene practices to all aspects of our operations in the affected markets."
Foxconn has slashed its 2020 revenue outlook after strict quarantines at its main base in China to guard against the coronavirus outbreak. The company has adopted a quarantine policy so that workers returning from outside Henan province will be sequestered for 14 days, while staff who reside within the province will be isolated for one week.

The timing of the coronavirus outbreak could impact supply of the new lower-cost iPhone that Apple is expected to announce in March. Bloomberg recently reported that production of the device was slated to begin in February, but the coronavirus outbreak could delay that timeframe.

Apple typically sources components from multiple suppliers, and Foxconn has factories outside of China, so it's likely that Apple will still release the lower-cost ‌iPhone‌ in March, even if supply is limited at launch.


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Apple Suppliers in China Aim to Resume Full Production by February 10 Despite Coronavirus Outbreak

Apple suppliers in China including Foxconn plan to resume full-scale production by February 10, despite the coronavirus outbreak in the country, reports Bloomberg.

Foxconn's Hon Hai, the most important manufacturer for the U.S. company, said Tuesday it still expects to be able to restart facilities throughout China on schedule, according to a text message sent to Bloomberg News. Suppliers such as Quanta Computer Inc., Inventec Corp. and LG Display Co. also said they would go back to work next week in China.
The vast majority of Apple's iPhones are made in China, at Foxconn's Zhengzhou plant and at Pegatron's assembly site near Shanghai. Both locations are more than 500 kilometers away from Wuhan in central China, the epicenter of the viral outbreak.

Despite being ordered to halt "almost all" of its production in China through February 9, Foxconn recently claimed the viral outbreak has had a "fairly small impact" on iPhone production. Foxconn has factories in other countries such as Vietnam, India, and Mexico that have apparently been able to fill the gap.

Apple last week announced that it has closed all of its corporate offices, stores, and contact centers in mainland China through February 9 due to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, out of an abundance of caution. Apple has around 10,000 direct employees in China, across its retail and corporate divisions.

The timing of the coronavirus outbreak could impact supply of the new lower-cost iPhone that Apple is expected to announce in March. Bloomberg recently reported that production of the device was slated to begin in February, but the coronavirus outbreak could delay that timeframe.

More than 20,000 people have been infected with the virus and more than 400 have died. Last week, the World Health Organization declared the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak a global public health emergency. More information about the virus and how to protect yourself is available on the agency's website.


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