China’s largest electronics manufacturer, the already-loathed Foxconn, is now taking the fall for the iPhone 5 shortage that’s annoyed consumers and worried investors in recent weeks. What’s the holdup? They don’t have enough parts? They’re training new line workers? They’re too busy trying to regain control of their factories after employees started rioting? Nah. According to the company, the iPhone 5 is just a huge pain in the ass to put together. That bit about the riots is a little bit true, too, though.
Everybody has their own theory about the iPhone 5 shortage that’s been plaguing all of planet Earth since the device hit stores last month. First, everybody thought that it was just the insane demand for the device that was leaving some to wait three or four weeks for their phone to be delivered. Apple even said it was “blown away” by how many people wanted to cough up hundreds of dollars for its new pocket computer. Then, as we got further and further from the launch date without any apparent change in delivery dates, other theories popped up. Some said it was Sharp’s fault for not manufacturing enough of the iPhone 5’s “4-inch low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS) touch-panel display with in-panel switching.” Sharp quickly shot that theory down. When Apple’s stock price started to sink, it was time for somebody to speak up.
Foxconn stepped forward to take the fall in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. “The iPhone 5 is the most difficult device that Foxconn has ever assembled. To make it light and thin, the design is very complicated,” an unnamed Foxconn executive told the paper. “It takes time to learn how to make this new device. Practice makes perfect. Our productivity has been improving day by day.” The executive added, “It's always hard to satisfy both aesthetic needs and practical needs.”
We get it. The new iPhone 5 is pretty and pretty ain’t easy. Earlier models already had dozens of teeny tiny parts that needed to be squeezed into that pretty case, and that extra inch of screen space in the iPhone 5 surely added a few more. Plus, people get really upset if you ship them a phone that’s not absolutely, totally perfect, and in the beginning, Foxconn was having a little bit of trouble with that challenge. And indeed, riots did break out at one Foxconn factory not long after the iPhone 5 launched, though the company says that this incident didn’t affect productivity.
Not to be insensitive or anything, but Foxconn did lose a small part of its workface recently. Literally! The company had been running an internship program that put 14- to 16-year-old children on the factory floor, and if you’ve ever built a Lego spaceship with a teenager, you’ll know that those nimble little fingers are great at dealing with the small parts. Alas, the world did not approve of Foxconn’s child labor practices, and those kids are now safely back in school Guess the adults will have to pick up the slack on this one.