Nightline has aired their well publicized "exclusive look inside Apple's factory in China", which follows a month of media, environmental, and social scrutiny of the Chinese factory system. Apple allowed Nightline to film assembly of their products, which includes 141 steps to assemble an iPhone 4S, mostly by hand.
The assembly line workers were young; 17 or 18, with no one appearing to be over the age of 30. Working in 2 shifts, they can make 300,000 a day. An entire iPad takes 5 days and 325 pairs of hands, and they can churn out 10,000 an hour. One woman, a tired mother of 2, cleans 3,000 Apple logos every shift.
They get 2 one-hour meal breaks during a 12 hour shift, which they pay $0.70 for. If they eat fast, they can nap before their shift resumes. Dorm rooms are shared with 7 other workers. There's an internet cafe and soccer field where they play sports and practice Wushu (Chinese martial arts), and English and other classes. But Nighline makes it clear the workers are there to work, because opportunities outside Foxconn are fewer and pay even less.
Nightline implies that knowing how an iPhone or iPad 2 are made irrevocably alters your experience and enjoyment of the device -- the way knowing how a steak is made alters your experience and enjoyment of the meal. And that seeing Foxconn will make Apple customers "think different" about Apple. It's true that seeing things often has a greater impact than hearing or reading about them, and focusing and giving faces to individuals is more powerful than problems associated with faceless masses far away.
ABC did a good job divulging their connection to Apple -- they're owned by Disney, whose CEO sits on Apple's board, and whose single largest shareholder is the estate of Steve Jobs. They also point out that Foxconn works on projects for Intel, Nintendo, and Dell, among others.
We've shared some of our thoughts with you, both on the situation being a social, cultural, and developmental problem beyond Apple and on Apple's unique position and responsibility in the industry. Give Nightline's report a watch via the links below and let us know -- does it change how you feel about your Apple devices?
More: 5 min YouTube highlight, Full video (requires Flash, US only)
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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.