Why the iPhone 5 is in short supply

An official with Apple supplier Hon Hai tells the Wall Street Journal that the phone is the "most difficult device" the company has ever made.

The iPhone 5.
The iPhone 5. CNET

Still waiting for an iPhone 5? Apple's own supplier offers a reason why.

An unnamed official with Hon Hai, aka Foxconn, told the Wall Street Journal that the design process of making the new phone light and thin is "very complicated." Calling the iPhone 5 "the most difficult device that Foxconn has ever assembled," the official said that factory employees are still learning how to build the phone.

But he offered a note of optimism by saying that workers are getting better at assembling the phone. "Practice makes perfect," he told the Journal.

The official also addressed the iPhone 5's vulnerability to scratches . Many owners of the new phone have complained about nicks and scratches appearing on the new aluminum coating of the phone.

Apple Senior Marketing VP Phil Schiller reportedly called that "normal," telling one iPhone 5 owner that "any aluminum product may scratch or chip with use, exposing its natural silver color." However, several owners have reported finding scratches on the phone right out of the box even before they start using it.

The Hon Hai official confirmed that the new coating used on the iPhone 5 is more susceptible to scratches but said that the company now has a new process to check for that type of damage.

Apple's online store still shows a ship time for the iPhone 5 of three to four weeks, an estimate that's held firm for the past several weeks. But everyone's mileage may vary.

Last month I ordered the iPhone 5 through Verizon Wireless and was given an estimated ship time of one month. Instead, I received the new phone in about a week and a half.

Still, overall stock remains in short supply, one reason why some analysts believe iPhone sales for the third quarter could fall short of expectations . Apple launched the new iPhone last month in part so it could end the third quarter on an upbeat note. But with supply constraints limiting iPhone 5 sales, third-quarter earnings could actually feel a hit.

See also:
The life of an iPhone: From rocks to recycling
CNET takes a hard look at the human toll of creating iPhones, the environmental concerns raised by mining for the raw materials, and what happens to iPhones when people get rid of them.
Read the full CNET Review

Apple iPhone 5

The Bottom Line: The iPhone 5 completely rebuilds the iPhone on a framework of new features and design, addressing its major previous shortcomings. It's absolutely the best iPhone to date, and it easily secures its place in the top tier of the smartphone universe. / Read full review

About the author

Journalist, software trainer, and Web developer Lance Whitney writes columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, Microsoft TechNet, and other technology sites. His first book, "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time," was published by Wiley & Sons in November 2012.

 

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