Apple Watch supplier allegedly experiencing Taptic trouble

According to a report, one of the two suppliers of the part for Apple Watch is facing quality control issues resulting in manufacturing defects — Taptic Engines that rapidly stop producing haptic feedback. Time was I'd link to reports like these from major business publications without a second thought, but after years of erroneous device delay rumors, misleading Apple Pay headlines, and other questionable coverage from what should be trusted papers of record, I've learned to take some time and look into things first. In this case, Daisuke Wakabayashi and Lorraine Luk both have solid reputations, so the report is absolutely worth noting. From the Wall Street Journal:

A key component of the Apple Watch made by one of two suppliers was found to be defective, prompting Apple Inc. to limit the availability of the highly anticipated new product, according to people familiar with the matter.The part involved is the so-called taptic engine, designed by Apple to produce the sensation of being tapped on the wrist. After mass production began in February, reliability testing revealed that some taptic engines supplied by AAC Technologies Holdings Inc., of Shenzhen, China, started to break down over time, the people familiar with the matter said. One of those people said Apple scrapped some completed watches as a result.Taptic engines produced by a second supplier, Japan's Nidec Corp., didn't experience the same problem, the people said. Apple has moved nearly all of its production of the component to Nidec, these people said, but it may take time for Nidec to increase its production.

It should be made clear that we've seen no widespread accounts of Taptic Engine failure on social media or through other channels.

Right now, it's one data point, and as long as your Apple Watch is working, it's not something you need to be concerned about. If you're still waiting to receive your Apple Watch, then unless and until your shipping window changes, it's likewise nothing to worry about.

If you're looking for something to blame for the long shipping times, then maybe this is it, maybe not. Problems with suppliers happen to every vendor, especially large scale vendors, from time to time. They're frustrating for everyone, but alternate plans get made and products still get pushed out.

We'll update as we learn more.

Update: The Wall Street Journal has updated to say there's no indication any defective Taptic Engines reached customers.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

5 Comments
  • It is worth noting that the watch would NOT vibrate or show any notifications when it is being charged AND OR while NOT being worn! The notifications would go to the Phone instead of the watch while not being worn.
  • I wish it weren't, but this issue is real Rene. Hopefully, all it means is unexpected delays in getting watches onto customers' wrists. At best, it is a humbling moment for a company riding high on profits and sales.
  • It is a reasonable explanation as to why the orders were screwed up so royally. I just wish they had the decency to be honest with people about it from the start. John Gruber described a situation on his blog about how the first unit he received had a non-functioning vibrator, and that a second person he knew had one fail also. All this, during the "celebrity review" stage, just before the product actually launched. Since Gruber is considered to be one of those "special" people that Apple likes to fawn over (hey, he never gives them a bad review), they wouldn't have given him a broken watch on purpose, in fact they would be going out of their way to make sure it was the best they could find. It seems very likely from his telling, that Apple didn't know that these things were bad until that point, literally just a week before the launch, and then had to spend time testing them and pulling back on the supplies. It doesn't explain why they gave some people watches who ordered them *after* others, but it totally makes sense as a general explanation for the disastrous launch.
  • You’re wearing it wrong…….
  • i have to say that i was surprised to see imore get scooped on this story yesterday by pretty much everyone else.