WSJ: Apple prepares record number of 80 million 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhones for production

The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple has told its suppliers to prepare to build a record number of next-gen iPhones. According to the Journal, Apple is looking to produce 70-80 million units by December 30th. As reported earlier this month, both the 4.7-inch and the larger 5.5-inch models of the upcoming iPhone are expected to enter mass production in the coming weeks.

This is a big jump from the previous iPhone models. Last year the company only ordered 50-60 million of the iPhone 5s and 5c. Manufacturing parter Foxconn recently hired as many as 100,000 new workers to help meet the increased demand, and even ordered a custom line of robotic equipment to facilitate the production of iPhone 6.

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Apple just procured enough Sapphire Crystal furnaces to make 100-200M ~5-inch iPhone displays in Arizona

Last year, Apple and GT Advanced struck a deal to open and operate a manufacturing facility in Mesa, Arizona related to sapphire crystal components.

Earlier this year, we learned that Apple is “aggressively” pushing to make the facility operational by February 2014 and that the building would produce a “critical” and “new” sub-component for future Apple devices. Due to the vagueness and secrecy surrounding Apple and GT Advanced’s plans, there has been little to no confirmation regarding what exactly the partnership will yield for future Apple products.

But, thanks to new documents and information that we have uncovered with help of analyst Matt Margolis, we have a clearer picture of Apple’s plans…

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Foxconn reportedly halts hiring due to slow iPhone 5 production, resumes next month (for next iPhone?)

Image (1) Foxconn-factory-001.jpg for post 61231

Update: While it’s hard to read too much into these reports, Foxconn told The Wall Street Journal the freeze on hiring is a result of “a high employee return rate following the Lunar New Year holiday.”

According to the report from Financial Times, Apple’s major assembly partner Foxconn has halted new hiring at its facilities due to a slow down in production for the iPhone 5:

The suspension in hiring by China’s largest private sector employer and the biggest assembler of Apple products, is the first such countrywide move since the 2009 downturn, prompted by the financial crisis. It underscores the weakening demand for some Apple products, which has put pressure on the US company’s battered share price.

Foxconn confirmed it is not currently hiring in its plants located in mainland China, and FT reported the company’s employees were informed that hiring would stop until at least the end of March “in response to reduced orders for the iPhone 5.” While the iPhone 5 doesn’t seem to be experiencing a slow down, according to the latest numbers from Strategy Analytics, the March time frame would line up nicely with rumors of iPhone 5S production beginning in March. Many analysts are calling for a June or July launch of the next-generation iPhone, and Apple could begin initial production as early as next month if true. The decreased production at Foxconn is likely thanks to the expected falloff in new sales in the months following the busy holiday season. Less likely is speculation that Apple could be switching manufacturers.

Recruiters in China told FT that Foxconn has stopped hiring specifically for the iPhone and iPad production lines in many of its factories:

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As supply meets demand, iPad Line workers get more days off, but are they happy?

With all the controversy surrounding Apple’s supply chains abroad, Foxconn, one of Apple’s biggest partners responsible for assembling the majority of its products, has received the brunt of criticisms. We already know what the Taipei-based assembler thought about Mike Daisey’s fabrications of working conditions at Foxconn plants, but today we get another first hand account from an actual Foxconn employee.

A report from China Business News (via MIC Gadget) profiled Foxconn worker and iPad assembler Wang Xiaoqiao (who opted to hide his real name). According to Wang, iPad line workers are beginning to work fewer hours and get more days off as supply meets demand. Wang said iPad production was ramped up in March, bringing assembly time from 10 hours a day down to 8 hours. However, he is not happy about working less. Wang explained:

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