You're facing a three to four week wait if you order an iPhone 5 today, according to Apple's Website. Partly, that's because Apple's manufacturing partner is having trouble keeping up with high demand for the new phone.
A comment this week by Terry Gou, chairman of Foxconn Technology Group, is being interpreted by some as evidence that Apple's design for the new phone is needlessly complex, making it hard to manufacture in high enough volumes to meet the demand.
Those constraints may crimp Apple's competition with rival Samsung, whose Galaxy S III smartphone for the first time outsold the iPhone 4S in third quarter 2012, according to a report this week by Strategy Analytics. The Samsung phone was snapped up by 18 million buyers, vs. 16.2 million for iPhone 4S.
"It's not easy to make the iPhones. We are falling short of meeting the huge demand," Gou told reporters after a business forum Wednesday, according to Reuters and other news sites. Foxconn is the trade name for Taiwan-based Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., which manufactures the iPhone and other Apple products at factories in mainland China.
The Wall Street Journal reported Gou as saying Foxconn is shipping "far fewer" phones than Apple has requested. "Market demand is very strong, but we just can't really fulfill Apple's requests," Gou said. Some of the quality standards can't be met "due to design-related production difficulties," according to the article (which is behind a paywall but accessible via Google News).
"The scarcity of the phones has been weighing on Apple's share price as well, as investors are concerned Apple may not be able to meet consumer demand in the near future, weighing on its earnings," according to the Journal story.
Gou's apparently brief public comments echo those of an unnamed Hon Hai executive quoted in a Journal blogpost by Lorraine Luk in October. "The iPhone 5 is the most difficult device that Foxconn has ever assembled. To make it light and thin, the design is very complicated," the executive was quoted as saying.
At least at that time, one issue was the propensity for the new phone's metal exterior to suffer scratches. "Hon Hai has recently implemented a new quality check procedure to reduce the chance of damages," Luk reported in her blogpost. "But [the executive] noted the iPhone 5 uses a new coating material that makes it more susceptible to scratching."
Almost at once pundits began speculating that the new iPhone's design was needlessly complex.
It's "so complicated that the company Apple and most of the consumer electronics world considers the best contract manufacturer on the planet can't figure out how to build it in a way that keeps up with demand while maintaining quality," complains Erica Ogg, writing at GigaOm. "It's worth wondering if perhaps Apple went overboard. At what point do we begin wondering what the guys in Apple's design team were thinking?"
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