The government shutdown took NASA offline, closed government Twitter feeds and it’s possible that it could delay new smartphones and tablets if the shutdown lasts for a significant time.
There is good news for users who are eagerly awaiting the Nexus 5 release date and hoping to buy an iPad 5 or iPad mini 2 this month — these devices are likely safe as the FCC has approved one and is likely keeping the others secret until an announcement.
What is a government shutdown and what does it have to do with smartphones made by private companies? A government shutdown takes place when Congress fails to pass appropriations, which results in the closure of non-essential government services including the FCC.
While the Democrats and Republicans argued about healthcare and the appropriations without coming to terms on Monday, the FCC began to implement a plan that sent all but 38 employees home on furlough. These employees are on hand to perform “duties that are immediately necessary for the safety of life or the protection of property.”
The FCC must certify new smartphones and gadgets are safe and comply with regulations for use. As one might guess, approving new smartphones and tablets for use in the U.S. is not considered an essential service.
For devices like the iPad 5 and iPad mini 2, which Apple could announce in as little as two weeks, it is possible that the government shutdown will not impact Apple’s plans. Apple and other companies often submit devices to the FCC ahead of the announcement but are able to keep the information under wraps until after an announcement. We did not see the iPhone 5s show up in the FCC catalog until after it was announced, so it’s very likely that Apple already has FCC approval for any new iPads coming this month.
The Nexus 5 release is approaching as well, with a possible Google event in the coming days, and luckily the Nexus 5 made an appearance at the FCC in September, where saw the device in a plethora of photos. With this in mind. the government shutdown isn’t likely to get in the way of buying a new Nexus.
If the Government shutdown lasts longer, it’s tough to tell the exact impact as there is not enough historical data to draw from. The last government shutdown took place in 1995 when cell phones like the Motorola International 3200 were coming to market with more resemblance to Zack Morris’ phone than anything on sale today.
Competition certainly wasn’t as heated between Google, Apple, Samsung, LG and others and phone launches did not happen every month.
Jeffrey Silva, an industry analyst tells The Washington Post that the shutdown, “could very well lead to a backlog and delays in the equipment approval process,” which could easily pile up considering the FCC processes 16,000 devices a year.
At this point we don’t know how long the government shutdown will last, and it could come down to how fast public opinion forces Congress to act and pass appropriations to fund the government.