Digitimes is reporting that Apple is looking to transition iPhone battery production from labor-intensive processes to fully-automatic machine production lines in 2014.
Although the reliability of Digitimes’ reporting is often poor, in this case the trustworthiness of the report is much more likely to be solid. Unlike some of their previous stories in recent memory, automating battery production is a direct matter of the supply chain — which is Digitimes’ area of expertise.
Also, the benefits of removing labor from a part of the iPhone production line are clear. Due to the scarcity of labor, any improvement to capital manufacturing is a big win for output yields. There are also associated cost benefits to doing this. Apple has already setup mostly-automated production for the Mac Pro, so a continuation of this effort to other products is very likely. A reduced reliance on labor also gives Apple more geographical mobility, if it ever wants to move production to a new area of the world in the future.