Apple Inc. intends to begin producing the iPhone 14 in India around two months after the product’s initial availability outside of China, lowering but not bridging the gap between the two nations, as some had predicted.
According to sources, the firm has been working with suppliers to scale up manufacturing in India and reduce the next iPhone’s production gap from the customary six to nine months for past releases. Apple, which has historically manufactured most of its iPhones in China, is looking for alternatives as Xi Jinping’s administration conflicts with the US government and enforces nationwide lockdowns that have hindered economic activity.
Analysts like Ming-Chi Kuo of TF International Securities Group believe Apple would ship the new iPhone from both nations at around the same time, which would be a significant milestone in Apple’s attempts to diversify its supply chain and build redundancy.
According to the people who asked not to be identified because the efforts are confidential, Foxconn Technology Group, the primary manufacturer of iPhones, studied the process of shipping components from China and assembling the iPhone 14 device at its plant outside the southern Indian city of Chennai. This includes looking at solutions to preserve Apple’s strict secrecy requirements.
Apple and Foxconn eventually concluded that a simultaneous launch in India and China is not feasible this year, although it remains a long-term aim. Following the original September release, the first iPhone 14s from India is expected to be completed in late October or November. One participant suggested that the Diwali celebration, which begins on October 24, would be a good alternative.
Matching China’s iPhone production rate would have been a significant achievement for India, which has been advertising its desirability as an alternative when rolling Covid lockdowns and US sanctions threaten China’s status as the world’s factory. Assembling iPhones frequently necessitates cooperation among hundreds of vendors and satisfying Apple’s infamously strict schedules and quality requirements.
Some Apple and Foxconn employees wanted to start simultaneous manufacturing in India this year, but that was never an official plan. According to one of the sources, Apple intended to focus on getting the China operations up and running first, then figure out the India manufacturing.
In 2017, Apple’s partners began producing iPhones in India, kicking off a multi-year endeavour to establish manufacturing capabilities in the nation. In addition to providing backup for current operations, the country of 1.4 billion people is a promising consumer market, and the Modi administration has given financial incentives for electronics manufacturing through its Make in India initiative.
One barrier to lowering India’s output ceiling is secrecy. Apple takes great measures to keep new product secrets private, and implementing the same stringent restrictions in a second nation would be challenging.
According to two persons, local executives in India investigated completely boxing off a piece of one of Foxconn’s several manufacturing lines, sequestering employees and analyzing all potential ways the device’s security may be breached. According to one of the persons, the severe security restrictions and strict isolation of China facilities would be difficult to recreate.
Apple has also expressed concern about Indian customs officers, who generally inspect shipments to check whether imported materials match their claims, posing another risk to product confidentiality.
Even if Apple and Foxconn had planned a simultaneous launch, supply-chain issues would have thwarted the plan. China, the supplier of many iPhone components, has seen a series of lockdowns, making getting components through the nation more difficult.
The highly regulated methods Apple wants from suppliers have not been implemented by India’s workers and factories. On two notable occasions since Apple began making iPhones in India through contract manufacturers Foxconn and Wistron Corp. five years ago, employees have protested over wages and food quality.