Wednesday, October 25, 2017 [Tweets] [Favorites]

iPhone X Production and Availability

Alex Webb and Sam Kim (Hacker News, MacRumors):

That left suppliers short on time to prepare their factories and explains why the iPhone X is being released a full six weeks later than the iPhone 8, said this person, who asked to remain anonymous to discuss an internal matter. “It’s an aggressive design,” the person said, “and it’s a very aggressive schedule.”

[…]

The dot projector is at the heart of Apple’s production problems. In September, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple was having trouble producing the modules that combine to make the dot projector, causing shortages. The dot projector uses something called a vertical cavity surface-emitting laser, or VCSEL. The laser beams light through a lens known as a wafer-level optic, which focuses it into the 30,000 points of infra-red light projected onto the user’s face. The laser is made of gallium arsenide, a semiconductor material, and the lens is constructed of glass; both are fragile and easily broken. Precision is key. If the microscopic components are off by even several microns, a fraction of a hair’s breadth, the technology might not work properly, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

To make matters worse, Apple lost one of its laser suppliers early on. Finisar Corp. failed to meet Apple’s specifications in time for the start of production, and now the Sunnyvale, California-based company is racing to meet the standards by the end of October. That left Apple reliant on fewer laser suppliers: Lumentum Holdings Inc. and II-VI Inc.

[…]

To boost the number of usable dot projectors and accelerate production, Apple relaxed some of the specifications for Face ID, according to a different person with knowledge of the process. As a result, it took less time to test completed modules, one of the major sticking points, the person said.

Matthew Panzarino (via MacRumors, ArsTechnica):

Apple has issued a statement stating that the report is “completely false” and that it expects Face ID to be the new gold standard of facial authentication.

Apple:

iPhone X will be available in more than 55 countries and territories, and in Apple Stores beginning Friday, November 3 at 8:00 a.m. local time. Stores in most countries will have iPhone X available for walk-in customers, who are encouraged to arrive early.

Nick Heer:

Don’t count on it being easy, though. Nikkei reporters say that the initial iPhone X shipments from now until the end of the year will total just 20 million. For comparison, Apple shipped over 78 million iPhones between October and December last year.

Previously: Face ID.

Update (2017-10-26): Nick Heer:

Even with that limited information, though, I think it’s possible to guess at different ways that Bloomberg’s report may be a reflection of the complexity of producing the iPhone X at scale and how Apple’s statement reflects the shipping product[…]

John Gruber:

According to several trusted sources within Apple, including multiple engineers who worked directly on the iPhone X project, the decision to go “all-in on Face ID” (in the words of one source) was made over a year ago. Further, the design of the iPhone X hardware was “locked” — again, a source’s word — prior to January 2017. If I had to wager, I’d say it was locked a few months before the end of 2016.

[…]

So where do these rumors come from? I don’t know. My guess is that if there’s an intent behind them, it’s that competitors (cough, Samsung?) within the Asian supply chain are attempting to sow doubt about Face ID. The narrative presented by analysts and certain news reports this summer was that Apple was still scrambling to get Touch ID working embedded within the iPhone X display, suggesting that Face ID was their Plan B.

Dan Masters:

FWIW, I was never skeptical about Face ID:.

I am concerned with the supply chain management & product planning:

  • OLED supply (Samsung as sole supplier)
  • Face ID yield (as low as 20%!)
  • Halved iPhone X production
  • Incorrect iPhone 8 projections

Joe Rossignol:

Apple’s operating chief Jeff Williams will reportedly meet Foxconn chairman Terry Gou later this month, following several reports about ongoing iPhone X production issues, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

While the report did not say which topics Gou and Williams will discuss, it said the two executives will presumably look at ways to deal with the manufacturing bottleneck for Apple’s new high-end smartphone.

Update (2017-11-07): Robert Lo Bue:

Several people receiving iPhones with broken cameras, me included[…]

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Perhaps the increased Face ID production rate really was a ‘test the modules less, and if they fail let customers replace them’

Joe Rossignol:

For over a year leading up to the iPhone X, rumors ran rampant about Touch ID being placed under the display, or on the back or side of the device, but Apple’s hardware engineering chief Dan Riccio says the reports were never true.

In an interview with TechCrunch’s editor-in-chief Matthew Panzarino, Riccio said Apple “spent no time” looking at implementing fingerprint authentication in these ways because it was already focused on perfecting Face ID.

John Gruber:

Apple does not like talking about product development timelines. How long it takes them to design and ship a product is something they consider competitive information.

Josh Levenson:

During a recent interview with Mashable, Dan Riccio, Apple’s SVP of Hardware Engineering, revealed that the firm originally intended to release the iPhone X in 2018, “but with a lot of hard work, talent, grit, and determination [it was] able to deliver [it] this year”.

Brian X. Chen (via Riccardo Mori):

The iPhone X feels ahead of its time, perfect for a target audience of technology enthusiasts and obsessive photographers. Everyone else may want to wait awhile to buy.

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