When Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) announced the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X on Sept. 12, one disappointment was that the iPhone X -- easily the most interesting phone of the bunch -- would come to market quite a bit later than the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus.
Apple began taking preorders for the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus on Sept. 15, and availability of the devices is expected to begin on Sept. 22. That's 10 days from keynote to phones in customers' hands.
By contrast, Apple won't even begin to take preorders for the iPhone X until Oct. 27 -- about a month and a half after the keynote address -- with first deliveries occurring on Nov. 3.
Now a new report, this time from analyst Christopher Caso and his team (via Barron's), claims that Apple hasn't yet begun mass production of the iPhone X and that the production schedule has even been pushed out.
Let's take a closer look at what the report had to say and what it could mean for Apple stock.
Final production imminent
Per the research note, production on the iPhone X is expected to start in "mid-October."
"That production start is about a month later when compared to expectations a month ago, and about two months later than expectations at the end of June," the note read.
There were several rumors and reports over the last several months claiming that Apple was working to the wire to get a Touch ID sensor embedded underneath the display of the iPhone X, but the technology ultimately didn't work, forcing Apple to abandon its plans to include Touch ID in this year's iPhone X.
At the same time, though, those reports were apparently contradicted by well-connected Apple blogger John Gruber, as well as Matthew Panzarino, Editor-in-Chief of TechCrunch. Both these individuals claim, citing sources within Apple, that Apple made the decision to exclude Touch ID long ago.
So if we don't attribute this production delay to an abandoned attempt to get Touch ID implemented in iPhone X, then we need to find an alternative explanation.
There's no shortage of alternatives
One possible explanation is that the display on the iPhone X -- Touch ID embedded underneath it or not -- is just hard to build. DigiTimes reported a few days ago that the difficulties involved in manufacturing the iPhone X's display led to manufacturing delays, but that those problems have now been addressed.
The Wall Street Journal, in a separate report, appeared to second this, claiming that "Apple and its suppliers also ran into trouble manufacturing the OLED displays."
Additionally, another key feature of the iPhone X is its new 3D-sensing technology, which Apple markets as a "TrueDepth" camera system. My fellow Foolish colleague Evan Niu recently pointed out that one of the two suppliers of Vertical-Cavity Surface-Emitting Lasers -- key components of Apple's TrueDepth camera -- is a bit late in getting its parts qualified.
This means that Apple must rely on a single vendor for the entirety of its VCSEL needs until Finisar's parts are qualified. Halving the number of suppliers for such a critical component may have created a significant production bottleneck that further contributed to the delay in volume shipments of the iPhone X.