Apple prepared for a potential delay of its annual iPhone refresh, generally held in September and widely tipped to feature its first 5G handset, due to the broadening impact of the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, Nikkei Asian Review reported.

Sources told the newspaper Apple was considering pushing back its regular iPhone launch by several months due to supply chain constraints and a belief consumer appetite for fresh models may not be high enough.

The company is monitoring the situation, with a decision expected in May at the latest, Nikkei Asian Review wrote.

While Apple is yet to confirm if the latest round of model releases would include its first 5G smartphone, the move had been widely tipped for some time, with rivals Samsung and Huawei already having a least a year’s head-start on the US company.

However, Covid-19 hit smartphone shipments in the opening months of 2020: Strategy Analytics last week noted a 38 per cent year-on-year drop in February alone, and predicted little improvement this month.

Apple is apparently concerned this subdued consumer demand could continue throughout the remainder of the year, though it was reported to be looking to begin reopening retail outlets from April, a move which could ease such worries.