Aluminum choice being blamed for delays with iPhone 5 availability

Aluminum choice being blamed for delays with iPhone 5 availabilityThe decision to go with aluminum in the latest iPhone 5 is now being blamed for the poor availability and shipping times. The iPhone 5 has been on sale for just over two weeks now and Apple is still quoting availability for new devices at the time of writing of 3-4 weeks. According to a report by Bloomberg, the reason for the slow availability is all down to quality control problems with the aluminum used in the banding around the iPhone 5 and the back cover.

Stricter benchmarks have hampered production of the iPhone 5’s anodized aluminum housings, forcing Foxconn’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. (2317) to idle factories, the person said. The slowdown is heightening supply concerns that have cost Apple about $60 billion in market value since the iPhone debut -- a shortcoming of the drive to imbue products with qualities that make them alluring yet more difficult to manufacture.

The scrapes, which sparked complaints with the iPhone’s debut last month, are due to Apple’s decision to use a type of aluminum that helps make the smartphone thinner and lighter. Senior Apple managers told executives at Foxconn near the end of September to tighten production standards, said the person, who asked not to be named because the matter was private.

For those working on assembly lines with enough anodized aluminum housings for production, the pressure has intensified, because the iPhone 5 is more delicate and easier to scratch during the assembly process, said five factory workers interviewed by Bloomberg News outside the Zhengzhou plant. They spoke on condition that their full names not be used.

Last week, it was rumored that a strike had taken place at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou factory, the strike was supposedly called because workers were unhappy with being asked to work during holidays and overly strict demands on product quality without necessary training. Foxconn denied that the strike had ever taken place and that production was continuing as normal.

It will be interesting to see how well the iPhone 5 wears over the next few months and if it is as easy to scratch and scuff as many are claiming; if it doesn’t wear well then there will be a lot of unhappy customers. Apple prides itself on producing beautifully designed products that are functional as well as highly fashionable. If the iPhone 5 looks like it’s been dragged through a hedge backwards after a few months of use then this will clearly be a problem for many.

Source: Bloomberg

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chrisoldroyd

UK editor at iMore, mobile technology lover and air conditioning design engineer.

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Aluminum choice being blamed for delays with iPhone 5 availability

24 Comments

Wow... a complete article, copied from another article that was totally devoid of factual information... what is the tech blogosphere coming to :-(

Slow-News-Day on steroids…

I don't understand why they just don't start production earlier. Seems ridiculous that in 2012, I have to wait 3-4 weeks for a product.

They sold over 5 million phones in their first week.. sold out of preorders in an hour.. I'm sure to do that production was started early.. the difference is DEMAND grows exponentially and they cant meet it as fast as it comes. They are still human and the employees at Foxconn are human as well. I know their products are Magical but it doesn't make them Magicians.

This hasn't been a terrible release of a new iPhone model. Every single time Apple releases a product, people bitch because Apple didn't ask them what they wanted. Even here, people bitch about the app switcher tray which is just fine. And I would place money that the new incell screen is harder to produce and takes longer to produce than an aluminum frame.

It has been a terrible release by past standards of Apple. Bad things in the release include maps, wi-fi problems, and thousands of phones are scuffed or damaged right out of the box. Not to mention "scuffgate".

I wholeheartedly agree with you. Even if the phone spit out hundred dollar bills at the drop of a hat, people would find something to complain about.

If it was any other company, we might be alluding to poor design choices for the device.

Apple did not know in advance the resistance of aluminum and how that would affect product manufacturing? Time to change upper management there.

Seriously, I don't even care if the back gets scuffed up, I am not as uptight as all the people crying about it. Phones take damage, it happens, if its THAT big of a deal to you, get a case, if having a case is not your style, don't cry about the BACK getting scuffed. ITS THE BACK! I don't buy my phones because I want it to look "pretty" for two years, I buy em for what they can do, as long as it functions properly the whole time, and as long the screen is in good shape..."scuff it up" I say!

I don't want my $600 toys scratched up out of the box, or as soon as it touches metal or fingernails.

Exactly. I'm a case and screen protector person and guess what? None of my iPhones have ever been scratched. Admittedly, I don't have the 5, but it'll be in a case first thing if I do get it. If you're not a case person, stop whining about scratches. Find me the phone/tablet/PDA that is unscratchable. There isn't one, no matter how durable anybody's marketing materials claim.

No, no phone is unscratchable, but most are a lot more resistant to it. You can pretend it shouldn't matter, and maybe it doesn't to you, but it is a design compromise they made that many people don't like for perfectly valid reasons.

its an aluminum uni-body not a band and back cover.. That's the iPhone 4S you are thinking about,

one of the reasons why iphone 5 is a bit scarce now is because foxconn's employees went on strike last week. foxconn is one of Apple's major supplier and manufacturer for iphone 5.

I've had my iPhone 5 since it launched back in Sept. Had to head to the Apple store to replace it due to a dent and 2 tiny scratches that were on the phone. Apple had to replace it twice b/c the replacement had scratches as well. So far I noticed that no matter how hard I try to maintain this iPhone from scratching, it managed a way to chip from just being in my pocket. Mind you, I take extra measures to make sure I have no dirt, keys, or change inside but yet still got them. I want to buy a bumper for it but I'm afraid that it's going to scratch it even more since I notice that it doesn't take much to chip away the paint.

Apple should just use matte black plastic like the Koreans and Taiwanese. This would also take care of all of the scuff and scratch whiners. /s

This is nothing new for Apple; remember the easily scratchable chrome-backed iPod and shiny black iPhone 3G? A week in the pocket and they looked like hell.
Every release, I can hear the muffled screams inside their engineers' heads as the Industrial Design juggernaut ramrods its aesthetic agenda through their system. with little regard for these easily-prevented issues.

Aluminum is SOFT, which means it's easily scratchable and dentable. It's horrible choice for a thin enclosure material. Anodizing helps a lot with the former issue, but it could be that they decided to minimize the amount of anodize process in order to meet those insane fit tolerances - they won't allow couple hundred extra microns +/- of protective aluminum oxide to sully the purity of their design.

I'm with Mickey Blue-Eyes. I'd prefer a layer of black elastomerized plastic over-molded onto the metal, so the damn thing looks ok after a week of use, and doesn't feel like it's going to squirt out of my hand like a wet bar of soap.