Apple Watch delays may be due to faulty part

The Chinese-made taptic engine, which mimics the sensation of being tapped on the wrist, proved to be defective so Apple switched to a different supplier, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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The Apple Watch uses a "taptic engine" to send the feeling of a heartbeat to other watch users. Shara Tibken/CNET

The Apple Watch's shipping delays may be due to a faulty component, not just demand.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the "taptic engine" manufactured by Chinese components maker AAC Technologies was found to be defective, breaking down over time. Because of the issue, the company has shifted all of its orders to a second supplier, Japan-based Nidec Corp. It will take Nidec some time to manufacture enough components, limiting the pace of the Apple Watch's rollout, the Journal said.

The taptic engine enables some of the key features of the Apple Watch. The device uses a motor to mimic the feeling of being tapped or buzzed on the wrist, allowing users to discretely receive notifications about messages or directions while using Apple Maps. Apple Watch users also can send the feeling of their heartbeat to other watch owners.

Apple discovered the taptic engine problems during tests before releasing the device, the Journal said, which means there shouldn't be recalls for the Apple Watch.

Apple declined to comment. AAC and Nidec didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Apple Watch, which requires an iPhone 5 or later to run basic apps and receive notifications, is Apple's first new device since the iPad launched five years ago and the first new product category under the leadership of CEO Tim Cook. It's key for Apple to show it's still an innovator and can expand beyond its wildly successful iPhone franchise, which makes up the bulk of sales and profits.

So far, the Apple Watch has been experiencing long shipping delays. Wait times for the device, which costs from $349 for the sport version to $17,000 for the gold edition, now stretch into July. Research firm Slice Intelligence on Sunday estimated only 22 percent of US customers who preordered the Apple Watch received their devices in the first weekend it was available. Apple hasn't revealed the watch's sales figures, and it doesn't plan to break out the results in its quarterly reports. Still, some analysts believe the company has sold 2 million Apple Watch units in just the two weeks of preorders, which started April 10.

Cook on Monday said that Apple has been notifying customers about earlier shipping dates, and Apple believes "by some time in late June, we currently anticipate being in a position that we could begin to sell the Apple Watch in additional countries. The device initially shipped in nine countries, including the US and Australia.

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