Image credit: 9to5mac.com

In spite of our best hopes, 9to5Mac is hearing from multiple sources who have ties to Apple and its manufacturing partners that the company is facing continued design and production delays that might push the teardrop iPhone 5 out until 2012. Today, DIGITIMES weighs in on the issue with additional information which reinforces what we’ve been hearing, putting the blame on touch panel maker Wintek which reportedly supplies one-quarter of iPhone 5 touch panels. According to the publication:

A defect has presented in some iPhone 5 touch panels produced by Wintek which may affect the ability to meet initial shipment targets for the launch which is expected in October, according to iPhone supply chain makers. In response, Wintek simply indicated that all of its products are being delivered on schedule.

The publication goes on to describe the “delayed bubble” defect which the source warns is difficult to avoid if it isn’t detected early on during the process of laminating touch panels. Sources assure the publication that Wintek “is expected to remedy the defect quickly” given that iPhone 5 and iPhone 4 utilize the same touch panel manufacturing procedures.

The report contradicts this story, also from DIGITIMES, calling for 150,000 iPhone 5s being produced every day by Foxconn, waiting for iOS 5 to be finalized and preinstalled on the devices before shipping can commence. In the light of today’s rumor, however, it is possible that the iPhone 4S production has been in full swing rather than iPhone 5 and newest Otter Box cases would certainly reinforce this thinking.

Apple facing manufacturing difficulties isn’t unheard of. Remember white iPhone 4? It took the company eight months to figure out how to make it work so that light leakage doesn’t degrade camera performance. Also, Antennagate anyone? Let’s not forget that Apple’s products are “very difficult to make” and that’s from Terry Gou, the CEO of Apple’s long-time contract manufacturer Hon Hai Precision Industry, also known as Foxconn. For all we know, Gou might have been referring to iPhone 5 when he made that comment back in June.

If DIGITIMES’ report is true, this development is likely to hurt Apple’s initial iPhone 5 shipments, leading to tight supplies at launch. Analysts expect Apple to ship about 25-30 million iPhone 5 units in the holiday quarter. A recent ChangeWave survey described demand for iPhone 5 as “unprecedented”. UBS Research concluded, based on a survey of 515 smartphone users, that up to one-third of Android users are considering switching to an iPhone as users of Apple’s handset are the most loyal smartphone owners, with a retention rate of 89 percent.

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