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iPhone 6 demand challenges Apple supplier Foxconn

Buyers of the new phone may have to wait a while to get it as Apple supplier Foxconn struggles to ramp up production, says the Wall Street Journal.

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Demand for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have Foxconn's factory workers in high gear. CNET

The iPhone 6 seems to be running into the same old story -- not enough supply to meet demand.

Apple supplier Foxconn has brought more factory workers on board to make the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus at its plant in Zhengzhou, China. But the complexities of manufacturing both phones appear to be taking their toll, the Wall Street Journal said Wednesday, citing the usual "people familiar with the matter."

More than 200,000 Foxconn workers are stationed at the Zhengzhou factory with the sole job of assembling the new iPhones and some of its key components, the Journal said. The plant is also running 100 production lines 24 hours a day to keep up with demand for the new phones. So what exactly is the problem?

Foxconn is the only supplier manufacturing the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus and is responsible for most of the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 units, the Journal's sources said. With larger screens and other enhancements, the two new phones also represent a dramatic shift from last year's models. As such, most of the burden and work is on Foxconn's shoulders. That contrasts with Foxconn's obligation last year when it initially made only the iPhone 5S and just a small number of iPhone 5C units before it eventually dropped the 5C altogether.

Another problem reportedly rests with flaws in the production output. The percentage of successful iPhone 6 Plus units assembled is only around 50 percent to 60 percent, a person at a display component supplier told the Journal. That means Foxconn has to throw out the units that don't meet quality standards. The iPhone 6 fares better with a successful production rate of more than 85 percent.

"We have been churning out 140,000 iPhone 6 Plus and 400,000 iPhone 6 every day, the highest daily output ever, but the volume is still not enough to meet the preorders," a person familiar with the matter told the Journal. "For iPhone 6 Plus, we are still ramping up the production line. Another reason for the limited supply is the shortage of 5.5-inch displays."

Until Foxconn can improve production to inch closer to demand, iPhone buyers will have to wait a while. Among the new models, the iPhone 6 Plus is facing longer delays for those who preorder in advance of actual sales that kick off on Friday. Apple's website shows the wait time for the iPhone 6 at seven to 10 business days and the wait time for the iPhone 6 Plus at three to four weeks.

CNET contacted Apple for comment and will update the story with any further details.