Key Japan-made iPad 2 parts in focus

The ongoing availability of key components used in Apple's new tablet are still uncertain but manufacturing geographies appear to be favoring some over others.

Flash memory chips and batteries, major components in the iPad 2, appear to face different fates, owing to the location of the manufacturing facilities in different parts of Japan.

iPad 2
iPad 2 Apple

Clarity is hard to come by in Japan, especially in the earthquake-stricken areas. But the impact of the continuing crisis on two major technologies used in Apple's latest tablet is pretty clear.

While Toshiba's manufacturing production of flash memory continues to recover, lithium-ion battery production is not faring so well, as it was much closer to ground zero.

Flash memory/Toshiba: The world's largest supplier of flash memory--and major Apple supplier--provided updates dated March 14 and 15 for its massive Yokkaichi factory, located about 500 miles south of the earthquake's epicenter.

As of March 14, production had stopped partially, but had "almost recovered." On March 15, the company issued another update, stating that the complex "is now operating as usual."

Compared to other component factories located in hard-hit Iwate and Miyagi prefectures that's a fairly upbeat report, but it still hints at prolonged downtime at some facilities since the earthquake struck on March 11.

The biggest problem that Toshiba will face in Yokkaichi hinges on the supply chain. "A mid-term impact on the overall supply chain, including material procurement, is anticipated, as are short-term problems with logistics," a report said on March 15. "We continue to carry out a detailed investigation of the status of the plants and their recovery."

Lithium-ion batteries: iSuppli analyst Wayne Lam believes that the battery cells in the iPad 2 may be made in Japan, though the outer battery pack is marked "assembled in China."

"That's our understanding," Lam said in a phone interview. "Based on 'Apple Japan' markings on the cell. We can probably call it a Japanese cell," he said.

Japan is a prolific manufacturer of all kinds of batteries, particularly lithium ion. Sony, for example, has stated that operations have been affected at battery factories in Fukushima and that obtaining a stable power supply and raw materials are ongoing problems.

If, in fact, battery cells are coming from earthquake-impacted areas in Japan, that could result in future disruption of supplies for products like the iPad 2.

Updated at 11:25 a.m. PDT: adding comments from iSuppli's Wayne Lim about the iPad's batteries.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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