Digitimes’ latest rumor: new iPhone coming September, 7-inch iPad in August, and new 10-inch iPad in Q4

The ever-sketchy DigiTimes does not have the best reputation when it comes to predicting Apple product launches, but today the publication is reporting Apple OEM Pegatron began receiving orders for a new iPhone and a next-generation 10-inch iPad. It also reported Apple plans to release a 7-inch iPad in August:

Pegatron Technology reportedly has landed orders for a new-generation iPhone to be launched in September and a 10-inch iPad to be launched in the fourth quarter, according to Taiwan-based supply chain makers. Pegatron is currently an OEM for the iPhone 4S and new iPad… A 7-inch iPad, which reportedly will be released in August, will be manufactured by Foxconn Electronics (Hon Hai Precision Industry).

With the release of Apple’s new iPad last March, we find it hard to imagine Apple plans to break its yearly release window with a new 10-inch iPad, in addition to a 7-inch variant in August. We heard many rumors lately about a 7-inch or 7.85-inch tablet, indicating Apple could be experimenting with smaller screen sizes. In April, a translated report from a Chinese publication claimed Apple was prepping 7.85-inch iPad minis to launch in Q3 for $250 to $300, but we have not heard anything concrete on Apple’s plans to release a 7-inch tablet. As for iPhone, we are still expecting an October launch at this point.
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FLA president says Apple/Foxconn agreement raises bar, but will it raise prices?

The results of the Fair Labor Association’s investigation into Apple’s suppliers beginning with three Foxconn facilities officially published yesterday. While finding excessive working hours and many violations of Chinese labor law, Foxconn and Apple agreed to reduce workweek and overtime hours within Chinese law to 49 hours per week and 36 overtime hours per month based on the FLA’s recommendations. Foxconn will also hire tens of thousands of new employees and implement a compensation package to make sure workers’ salaries remain the same amid reduced working hours.

In the interview above with Reuters, head of the FLA Auret van Heerden talked about the investigation and noted the agreement could set a new standard for working conditions throughout China. One unanswered question is whether the agreement will lead to higher prices for consumers (which is not necessarily a bad thing)…

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NPR reports on aftermath of Pegatron explosions

With Apple currently allowing the Fair Labor Association to inspect the working conditions of its supply chains abroad, a new report from NPR profiled 25 of the 59 workers injured in an explosion at the Pegatron iPad factory in Shanghai, China last December (audio here – MP3). The explosion was attributed to a build-up of aluminum particles. According to Pegatron, it started in the machinery meant to collect the dust. Today’s report from NPR gives us a look into the conditions of the Shanghai plant before, during, and after the explosion from the eyes of workers.

A similar explosion months before in May at a Foxconn factory in Chengdu was the focus of The New York Times’ recent story sparking controversy over Apple’s suppliers. Zhang Qing explained to NPR that Apple inspected the Shanghai factory just hours before the explosion:

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Pegatron: Apple hasn’t informed us about forthcoming labor audits

Apple’s contract manufacturer Pegatron Technology of Taiwan is unaware of any forthcoming labor inspections at its Asian plants because its client has not officially tipped them about labor audits, according to Chief Financial Officer Charles Lin tells to Bloomberg. Lin was reacting to yesterday’s announcement by Apple of California that the first audits in cooperation with the Fair Labor Association have started at Foxconn City in Shenzhen, China.

Pegatron Corp., a maker of Apple Inc.’s iPhones, said it hasn’t been informed of any pending inspections of factory work conditions by labor groups, a day after the U.S. company said checks would start this spring. Pegatron is aware of Apple’s corporate social responsibility policies, Charles Lin, chief financial officer of the Taipei-based company, said by telephone today. The client hasn’t informed him about any upcoming audits, Lin said.

Apple previously confirmed that audits at Pegatron and Quanta Computer, the company assembling Mac notebooks, are due this spring. The company said the results of FLA audits will be made available on its website at the end of March. In the wake of the Foxconn scandal, a month ago Apple became the first technology company admitted to the FLA. That announcement followed Apple’s release of 2012 Supplier Responsibility Report that for the first time named 156 companies currently supplying components for Apple products, which left only three percent of suppliers absent from the list.

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Report: Apple forcing contract manufacturer Pegatron to choose sides, give up Asustek Zenbook orders

The high-profile Apple business with Asian contract manufacturer Pegatron Technology is facing scrutiny as the iPhone-maker is reportedly exercising its supply chain influence by asking Pegatron to drop new Ultrabook orders from Asustek or else it will lose orders for iOS devices. According to today’s article in Chinese-language Commercial Times, the similarities between Apple’s MacBook Air and Asustek’s Zenbook (released last year) instigated the Cupertino, Calif.-based firm to demand that Pegatron choose sides. As you know, the unique unibody metal enclosure of Apple’s notebooks is manufactured by Catcher Technology.

Pegatron currently assembles Asustek’s ultra-thin Zenbook family, but it will stop doing so by the end of March. As a result, Asustek will have to outsource the Zenbooks to either Compal Electronics or Wistron. Pegatron only recently landed iPhone orders and is hoping to assemble iPads, too. The Japanese blog Macotakara reported last month that Pegatron and Foxconn began assembly of iPad 3 for an early-March launch.

Even though the initial batch of Ultrabooks largely disappointed, upcoming models are looking to close the gap with lower prices and a unibody construction. Chinese-language Apple Daily reported in January (via DigiTimes) that Pegatron landed orders for at least five Ultrabooks by second-tier brands set to ship in April or May. One tiny interesting bit: Pegatron is an Asustek spin-off that happens to make Ultrabooks for other vendors, too.


Apple’s MacBook Air (left) and Asustek’s Zenbook (right). Image vie Ecoustics.com

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Fair Labor Association begins audits of Apple suppliers at Foxconn City

Following the release of Apple’s “2012 Supplier Responsibility Report,” Apple announced it would be the first technology company admitted to the Fair Labor Association. The FLA will “independently assess facilities in Apple’s supply chain,” and then publish its independent findings online. Apple announced through a press release today that the first audits have officially started with FLA President Auret van Heerden and his team beginning inspections at Foxconn City in Shenzhen. Apple CEO Tim Cook said the audits are “unprecedented in the electronics industry”: Read more

Pegatron and Foxconn reportedly begin assembly of iPad 3 with Sharp display, launching in early-March

According to the Japanese blog Macotakara (which can be accurate with Apple rumor reporting), Apple’s contract manufacturers Foxconn Electronics (also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry) and Pegatron Technology have issued orders to begin assembly of next-generation iPads for an early-March launch.

The report is based on unnamed Chinese sources, and it noted the iPad 3 will look virtually identical to iPad 2 while featuring the same hardware button configuration, shape of the dock connector and  position of the two cameras. Even the Smart Cover will work with iPad 3; although, tipsters mentioned magnets will be placed in a “different position.”  Some form fitting cases may not work, however, as the device is slightly thicker, probably to accommodate added parts.

Such a description validates yesterday’s iLounge story based on editor Jeremy Horwitz’s alleged hands-on experience with an iPad 3 prototype that he said is focused on internal changes rather than chassis redesign. Macotakara also noted that Sharp would provide panels for the device that sport a 2048-by-1536-pixel resolution. This is in line with earlier reports by DigiTimes and the Wall Street Journal.

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