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(Pocket-lint) - It's hardly rocket science to guess that Apple's next lineup of iPhones will launch this autumn - the Californian giant has been doing things the same way for years now. However, it's looking like 2020 could be seriously disrupted by the supply chain chaos the novel coronavirus is causing. 

A report from Reuters has pointed out that we're now plumb in the middle of the time of year when Apple would normally be busily sending engineers back and forth between Asia and the US to finalise the design and production of its new phones, to make sure that release windows are hit. 

Travel restrictions currently in place mean that these journeys aren't happening at all. While the manufacturing shouldn't exactly be about to hit peak production, this is nonetheless a key time for confirming assembly processes, and doing trial runs of prototype builds to establish what can be finalised. 

Production would normally start properly in June before spreading out to more locations to meet the predicted levels of demand, and even that target might be in danger given the unknown extent of the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

The iPhone 12 could be rarer than ever

When this disruption is added to the ongoing issues facing assembly line giants like Foxconnn, used extensively by Apple and other electronics-makers, the risk is that this will translate to relative shortages of devices when they do eventually launch later this year. 

Of course, at this stage it's unclear whether that would mean Apple deciding to delay the launch entirely, in order to ensure that people can actually order the phones, or whether its newest handsets would simply be seriously scarce at first. That sort of rarity can drive demand to a limited degree, but is likely to be deeply worrying for Apple. 

Writing by Max Freeman-Mills. Originally published on 26 February 2020.