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Will iPhone 6 Production Problems Hurt Availability?

Last-minute changes to the display have manufacturers scampering to meet quotas. We've heard this story before.
iPhone 6: 8 Ideas Ripped From Rivals?
iPhone 6: 8 Ideas Ripped From Rivals?
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Apple's iPhone manufacturing partners are struggling to produce displays for the upcoming iPhone 6 after a last-minute design change caused widespread delays. The disruption may impact the number of devices available at launch, say supply chain sources, and could even delay the launch altogether. If this type of FUD didn't show up just before the launch of every iPhone, it might be cause for real concern.

It's late August, many people are on vacation, and real news in the tech space is rather thin. With Apple's iPhone 6 launch expected to take place in mere weeks, it's no surprise that "persons familiar with the matter" and other nefarious insiders come out of the woodwork to fill the news vacuum with rumor and smoke and mirrors. This time around, some big mouths in Apple's supply chain say there's a real problem with the display.

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As Reuters explains it, the hiccup took place in June and July. Apple initially decided to use one backlight instead of two backlights in the iPhone 6's display in order to make it thinner. Upon inspection, however, Apple determined that one backlight didn't provide enough illumination. This forced it to go back to the drawing board to redesign the display to accommodate the second backlight. This disrupted production by idling plants while they waited for the new specs.

Production has since resumed, and plants are working at full capacity to make up for the lost time. Even so, there's some doubt about the plants' ability to churn out enough screens to meet initial demand for the iPhone 6 when it goes on sale next month. The iPhone 6's screen, which is expected to come in two sizes (4.7 inches and 5.5 inches), is being manufactured by Japan Display, Sharp, and LG Display.

I might be worried if similar "iPhone delay" stories didn't arrive with such regularity. It seems production problems beset Apple's suppliers ahead of each product's release. Many of the snags seem to center on the screen technology, which is generally the most complicated and expensive component of the device. It should be no surprise to anyone that Apple tweaks the design of its products at the last minute.

One need only read the entire Reuters article to see through the FUD. A spokesperson for Pegatron, one of the companies that assembles Apple's iPhones, said to Reuters, "Currently, there's a small shortage in supply of a specialized component for our communication devices. This kind of problem regularly occurs and the impact on production is negligible" [emphasis mine].

So, before you work yourself into a lather about the supposed limited availability of the iPhone 6, just remember to treat stories citing supply-chain sources with a healthy amount of skepticism.

Apple is widely expected to announce the iPhone 6 at an event on Sept. 9. If it follows past behavior, the device may reach Apple Stores as early as Sept. 19.

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