Supply Chain Hints at Apple Releasing Augmented Reality Headset No Later Than 2019

Taiwanese manufacturer Quanta Computer, a primary assembler of the Apple Watch, has revealed that it is working on an augmented reality product for an undisclosed company that some industry observers believe is Apple.

Google Glass Enterprise Edition

Quanta's vice chairman C.C. Leung suggested the device will be a "headset-like gadget with a fully transparent lens that allows users to see through and interact with the environment," according to Nikkei Asian Review.

"Currently, we see such a device available in the market no later than the year 2019," he told reporters after the company's earnings conference.

Leung noted that if an augmented reality device could carry a price tag lower than $1,000, it would likely become a hit in the market, although it is unlikely he has any knowledge of Apple's pricing plans if they even exist yet.

Quanta is the second Apple supplier to mention involvement with an augmented reality product after fellow Taiwanese company Catcher Technology said it has been tapped to supply parts for an undisclosed wearable device.

Bloomberg was among the first to report on Apple's work on an augmented reality headset. It said Apple aims to have the technology ready by 2019, and could ship a finished product as early as 2020, which is a slightly longer timeline.

The headset's custom operating system, based on iOS, is reportedly dubbed "rOS" for "reality operating system."

Apple hasn't finalized how users will control the headset and launch apps, but it is investigating touchscreens, Siri voice activation, and head gestures as it creates prototypes, the report said.

Apple CEO Tim Cook alluded to any headset being at least a few years away during a recent interview about augmented reality.

"Today I can tell you that the technology itself doesn't exist to do that in a quality way," Cook said. "We don't give a rats about being first, we want to be best in creating people's experiences. Something that you would see out in the market any time soon would not be something that any of us would be satisfied with."

Cook has repeatedly expressed a "profound interest" in augmented reality, which he favors over virtual reality. Apple's ARKit platform on iOS 11 enables developers to integrate augmented reality features into iPhone and iPad apps, potentially laying the foundation for what's to come.

Related Roundup: Apple VR Project

Discuss this article in our forums

Future HomePod Models Could Include Face ID Technology

A new rumor out of Apple's supply chain over the weekend suggests future iterations of the HomePod could come with 3D-sensing cameras supporting Face ID, similar to the front-facing technology on the iPhone X. Specifically, Inventec Appliances president David Ho mentioned recently that the company sees a trend towards both facial and image recognition technology being incorporated into smart speakers, without specifying which speakers in particular (via Nikkei).

Ho made the comment following Inventec's latest earnings conference, and analysts listening predict that he was likely referring to "the next generation of Apple's HomePod." Inventec Appliances is currently the sole supplier of both Apple's AirPods and HomePod, but also makes Xiaomi smartphones, Fitbit devices, and Sonos speakers, among others. Given the company's ties to Apple, analyst Jeff Pu predicts Ho's comments could suggest a Face ID-enabled HomePod in 2019.

"We see trends that engineers are designing smart speakers that will not only come with voice recognition but also incorporate features such as facial and image recognition," President David Ho told reporters after the company's earnings conference.

Jeff Pu, an analyst at Yuanta Investment Consulting, said Apple could roll out HomePods with 3D-sensing cameras in 2019.
Ho said that facial recognition features "are set to make people's lives more convenient and to make the product easier to use." He further clarified his comments, however, citing hesitancy about whether smart speakers "with more AI features" would become popular.

HomePod is set to release in December, although Apple has yet to confirm a specific release date for the new device. The upcoming smart speaker was first revealed during WWDC in June, where Apple explained it would be a music-focused speaker with high quality sound, deep Siri integration, and spatial recognition for providing the best sound in any space. Even before it was officially announced, rumors of the device's production were connected to Inventec Appliances.

Over a year before its unveiling at WWDC 2017, Apple's "Siri Speaker" was rumored to include facial recognition of some kind as another leg up on competing Echo products from Amazon. At the time, sources with knowledge of Apple's project said the device would be "self aware" and able to bring up different user profiles as people walk into a room, "such as the music and lighting they like." The HomePod launching next month will lack any such features and instead be controlled mainly through voice-enabled user prompts with Siri.

Related Roundup: HomePod

Discuss this article in our forums

iPhone X Supply Estimated to Remain Extremely Tight Until Next Year Due to Earlier Production Issues

iPhone X shipments to customers will total around 20 million units through the end of the year, suggesting availability of the smartphone will be extremely tight through the holiday shopping season, according to Nikkei Asian Review.


The reduction, said to be only half of Apple's originally planned amount for this year, is reportedly due to production issues with the iPhone X's new TrueDepth camera and 3D facial recognition system that powers Face ID and Animoji.

The good news is that Apple's manufacturers have supposedly improved their yield rate, but only towards the end of September. iPhone X is currently being produced at an estimated rate of 10 million units per month.

Apple is also believed to have already started negotiations with other manufacturers over additional production of certain parts, and there is a chance that output volumes could improve rapidly, according to the report.

Today's report echoes what we've heard a seemingly countless number of times from multiple industry observers.

Yuanta Investment Consulting analyst Jeff Pu, for example, originally estimated there would be 45 million iPhone X devices available to purchase. His latest prediction has 36 million units available through the end of the year.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo also cut his iPhone X shipment forecast for the fourth quarter to 25-30 million units, down from 30-35 million. He expects 2-3 million units will be shipped into distribution channels ahead of the launch.

iPhone X pre-orders begin Friday at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time on Apple.com, while the device formally launches November 3.

Related Roundup: iPhone X
Buyer's Guide: iPhone X (Caution)

Discuss this article in our forums

iPhone X Supply Revised Lower Yet Again as TrueDepth System Still Faces Production Issues

A new report today yet again suggests that customers looking to get an iPhone X this year might face quite the challenge.


Jeff Pu, an analyst with Taipei-based Yuanta Investment Consulting, has cut his forecast of the number of iPhone X devices that will be produced this year from 40 million units to 36 million. It's the second time he has revised down his estimate, which originally totaled 45 million earlier this year.

The underlying reason is that Apple's suppliers are still struggling to perfect manufacturing of the iPhone X's TrueDepth camera and 3D facial recognition system, according to Japan's Nikkei Asian Review. We first heard about the production issues from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo a few weeks ago.

Multiple reports have claimed it has taken more time to assemble the TrueDepth system's so-called "Romeo" module than the "Juliet" module.

The "Romeo" module reportedly includes the dot projector that beams more than 30,000 invisible dots to create a precise depth map of your face, while the "Juliet" module includes the infrared camera that analyzes the pattern. Together, they help power new iPhone X features such as Face ID and Animoji.

Pu maintained his belief that the iPhone X will enter mass production in mid-October and begin to be shipped from China to the first wave of launch countries next week. iPhone X pre-orders begin Friday, October 27, just over two weeks from now. The device officially launches Friday, November 3.

Related Roundup: iPhone X

Discuss this article in our forums

Apple Interested in Developing ARM-Based Mac Processors and iPhone Modems in House

Apple is continuing to expand manufacturing efforts related to the production of its own chips, according to a new report today by Nikkei, which stated that the company aims to "better compete" in the artificial intelligence field and reduce reliance on major suppliers like Intel and Qualcomm. Nikkei's sources said Apple's interest lies in building "core processors for notebooks, modem chips for iPhones, and a chip that integrates touch, fingerprint and display driver functions."

Apple has reportedly "invested in research and development" for baseband modem chips -- currently sourced from Intel and Qualcomm -- which are required for cellular communication features on Apple's mobile devices. Analysts pointed towards Apple's legal fight with Qualcomm, and its poaching of Qualcomm modem chip engineer Esin Terzioglu, as examples to bolster the theory that the Cupertino company is ready to build its own modem chips.

iPhone 8 teardown by iFixit

Building its own core processor chips for MacBooks would reduce Apple's dependence on Intel, with two industry sources stating that Apple would instead build its notebook chips using ARM Holding's technology, a British company that designs ARM architecture and licenses it out to other companies. Apple's interest in designing chips that integrate touch, fingerprint and display driver functions is said to be because the company "wants to control next-generation display technology and some related key components."

Multiple analysts provided theories behind Apple's move to design more of its own chips for its products, which included staying on the forefront of artificial intelligence, lowering production costs, better protecting proprietary technology, and more.
"By designing its own chips, Apple can better differentiate itself from others. Further, depending too much on other chip suppliers in the age of artificial intelligence will deter its development," said Mark Li, a Hong Kong-based analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein.

"We believe that more system houses will design their own chips. The purposes are to develop and protect their proprietary technology information, to make more efficient chips for their unique need, to lower [costs] and to do inventory control better and keep all logistic operation confidentially," Samuel Wang, a U.S.-based analyst at research company Gartner, said..
Apple has long designed and built the core processing chips found in iPhones and iPads, but this year reports began to emerge of the company's hope to expand the amount of internal iOS device components that it creates on its own. In April, Apple informed Imagination Technology that it would stop using its graphics technology over the next two years, aiming to make its own graphics processing chips and lessen its reliance on the supplier. Less official was a prediction by analyst Karsten Iltgen that Apple would drop Dialog Semiconductor from its supply chain and move to its own in-house power management chips for iPhones by 2019.

This week, Apple was part of a consortium that purchased Toshiba's much-sought-after NAND memory chip unit for $17.7 billion, another move that will eventually allow Apple to be less reliant on other suppliers for device components. Still, many of Apple's in-house chip production lines are many years off, with analyst Mark Li stating that it's "unlikely" Apple will be able to debut its own components -- specifically referring to the modem chips -- within the next two years.


Discuss this article in our forums

Estimated Supply of iPhone X on Launch Day Revised Down to Just Over 12 Million Units

When the iPhone X launches on November 3, initial supply of the smartphone available to purchase could be limited to around 12 million units, according to Jeff Pu, an analyst at Taipei-based Yuanta Investment Consulting.


Pu told Nikkei Asian Review that Foxconn likely manufactured around 2 million iPhone X devices in September. He said the number should increase to 10 million in October, and reach a total of 40 million by the end of the year, down from his original forecast of 45 million units earlier this year.

If accurate, that means there would be just over 12 million iPhone X handsets available to purchase when the device launches in under six weeks.

The report corroborates that the TrueDepth camera and facial recognition system is a major bottleneck for iPhone X production, as KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said in a research note earlier this week.
Two executives working for iPhone suppliers told Nikkei Asian Review that 3-D sensor part makers are still struggling to reach a satisfactory level of output, and to boost their yield rate. This rate measures the number of usable or saleable units from a batch of components or final products produced. A low yield rate is likely to hurt a company's margins and bottom line.
Reports about limited availability surrounding an iPhone launch surface every year, but rumors suggest the iPhone X might be even harder to get your hands on than a 256GB iPhone 7 Plus in Jet Black last year.

Related Roundup: iPhone X
Tags: nikkei.com, Jeff Pu

Discuss this article in our forums

HomePod Supplies Limited at Launch, but Foxconn Coming on Board in 2018 to Increase Production

Inventec Appliances has been a rumored supplier for Apple's HomePod smart speaker since before the device was announced at WWDC in June, and now the manufacturer has indicated that supplies for HomePod might be limited at launch, in line with most Apple product launches (via Nikkei).

The news came from Inventec Appliances president David Ho during a press conference today. Although his comments never specifically mentioned "HomePod," the estimated time frame given for the release of the product -- late in 2017 -- and its description as a high-profile "smart home device," suggest it to be Apple's upcoming speaker. At WWDC, Apple confirmed that the HomePod would launch sometime in December.


Now, Ho has stated that the HomePod's contribution to the company's revenue for this year will be "fairly limited" -- which is expected given the device is launching so late in the year -- with optimistic improvements to profit gained from HomePod sales predicted for early 2018. One analyst speculated that the number of HomePod units shipped in December 2017 will be around 500,000.
“We will finally ship the smart home device this year, but its contribution will be fairly limited and hopefully that will improve next year,” Inventec Appliances President David Ho told analysts and reporters during an earnings conference.

“Inventec Appliances will likely only ship some 500,000 units of HomePod this year, and the device’s contribution to the group’s revenue will be less than 1%,” said Arthur Liao, an analyst at Taipei-based Fubon Securities.
In 2018, Apple will look to open up HomePod manufacturing to more than just Inventec Appliances, according to one of Nikkei's sources, who stated that Apple is planning to add Foxconn into the HomePod supply chain next year. This will result in Inventec Appliances and Foxconn receiving a "split" of HomePod orders and boosting production for the smart home speaker, following the limited initial launch.

Inventec Appliance's total smart home and connected devices shipments are expected to grow to between 70 and 75 million units by the end of 2017, but company officials didn't specifically break down the numbers related to the Apple products it makes.

In addition to HomePod, Inventec Appliances also manufactures Apple's AirPods, which have been particularly difficult for many users to purchase since the wireless earphones launched last December. Earlier in August, the estimated shipping date for AirPods finally lowered to four weeks from six weeks, which had been the shipping estimate for the previous eight months.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Tags: Foxconn, nikkei.com

Discuss this article in our forums

Apple Supplier Confirms New iPhone Models Will Be ‘Waterproof’ With Wireless Charging

iPhone assembler Wistron has confirmed that at least one of Apple's next-generation iPhone models will be "waterproof" and include wireless charging capabilities, according to Japanese website Nikkei Asian Review.

"Assembly process for the previous generations of [iPhones] have not changed much, though new features like waterproof and wireless charging now require some different testing, and waterproof function will alter the assembly process a bit," [Robert] Hwang, [Wistron CEO], told reporters after the company's annual shareholders' meeting on Wednesday.
Apple analysts Jeff Pu of Yuanta Investment Consulting and Arthur Liao of Fubon Securities claim Wistron is splitting orders for the upcoming 5.5-inch iPhone with a flat display with larger Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn, so it's likely that Wistron is referring to the so-called "iPhone 7s Plus."

Given the higher-end "iPhone 8" is expected to be a premium smartphone, positioned above the iPhone 7s Plus, that model will likely feature wireless charging and improved water resistance as well. That leaves the next 4.7-inch iPhone, which is already rumored to have wireless charging, and it's reasonable to assume the smaller model will have improved water resistance too.

iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models are already splash- and water-resistant with an IP67 rating, but Apple's fine print warns that "splash, water, and dust resistance are not permanent conditions and resistance might decrease as a result of normal wear." iPhone water damage is not covered by Apple's warranties.

Nevertheless, many iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus users use their smartphones in the shower, for example, without issue.

A report earlier this year said Apple's next iPhone models will feature improved IP68-rated water resistance. In the IP68 rating, the "6" means the next iPhone would remain effectively dustproof, with "no ingress of dust" and "complete protection against contact," while the "8" means the device will be even more water resistant.

Samsung's Galaxy S8, which already has IP68-rated water resistance, is able to withstand 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8
Tag: nikkei.com

Discuss this article in our forums

Apple Camera Lens Supplier Confirms 3D Sensing Module Shipments Coming in 2017, Likely for iPhone 8

Largan Precision, one of the current suppliers for the iPhone's camera lens component, today confirmed that it will ship lenses for 3D sensing modules in the second half of 2017, suggesting inclusion in the next-generation "iPhone 8." The confirmation comes from Largan CEO Adam Lin, who refrained from mentioning which company exactly the modules would be allocated for (via Nikkei).

The list of companies available is very short, according to analyst Jeff Pu, who pointed out that Apple is expected to be the only company in the world to launch a smartphone with a 3D sensing module in 2017. In total, Pu estimated that Largan is set to supply 90 percent of the iPhone's rear camera lenses, 50 percent of its 3D sensing lenses, and up to 30 percent of the front-facing camera lenses.

A mockup of the iPhone 8's front-facing camera and sensors via @VenyaGeskin1

The features and design of the iPhone 8's front-facing sensor bar have remained one of the more uncertain aspects of renderings and mockups over the past few weeks. It's still unclear whether the iPhone 8 will include a dual-lens front-facing camera or keep the single-lens of current generation devices.

The inclusion of a 3D sensing module further confuses things, since it hasn't been suggested whether or not the technology would be directly integrated into the camera lens, or added onto the side among the ambient light sensor and proximity sensor. Pu's data appears to suggest the latter outcome.
Key iPhone camera lens provider Largan Precision on Wednesday confirmed it would ship lenses for 3-D sensing modules in the second half of this year, according to the company's chief executive.

"We will have lenses for 3-D sensing [module used in smartphone] ready to ship in the second half this year," said Adam Lin, Largan's chief executive in a press conference after the company's annual general meeting.
A 3D sensing front-facing camera has been a rumored feature of the iPhone 8 since February, when KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reported that the upcoming iPhone will gain a "revolutionary" front-facing camera system that consists of three modules that enable fully-featured 3D sensing capabilities. The technology's applications could include facial and iris recognition features.

LG has been named as one of the other potential suppliers of 3D modules for the iPhone 8. If the biometric sensing features do arrive in iPhone 8, they're believed to be fueled by technology that Apple acquired from Israeli company PrimeSense in 2013. PrimeSense is known as the creator of the original 3D body sensing technology used in Microsoft's first-generation Kinect peripheral for Xbox 360.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8
Tags: nikkei.com, Largan

Discuss this article in our forums

Apple Watch on Track to Include Advanced Micro-LED Display ‘As Soon As 2018’

Apple's micro-LED plans are making headlines again today, with Nikkei quoting industry sources that believe the Cupertino company is still on track for a wide adoption of micro-LED screens in its wearable devices "as soon as 2018." That timeline fits into a previous report from May, which pegged Apple for a trial production of micro-LED displays by the end of 2017, and a predicted inclusion on an Apple Watch launched in 2018 or later.

If true, analysts speculate as to whether this means Apple would then cut dependence on Samsung and its production of OLED screens currently used on Apple Watch. Separately, another rumor has suggested that Samsung is looking into purchasing micro-LED manufacturer PlayNitride, which could then lead into a scenario where Apple sources micro-LED screens from Samsung for Apple Watch. Falling in line with previous reports, Nikkei's sources state that Apple's micro-LED efforts will be housed in a plant in Taoyuan, Taiwan.


According to a person with knowledge of the display industry, Apple remains "the only company" that could potentially roll out micro-LED on a wide scale at this early stage in the technology's development. Devices with micro-LED have the chance to be thinner, lighter, see an improved color gamut with increased brightness, and sport higher resolutions. Micro-LED isn't expected to become a leader in the smartphone display supply chain, including that of iPhone, until 2020 at the earliest.
"Apple is working very hard to foster the micro-LED technology ... the company could push the use of new display tech as early as next year," said an executive with close knowledge of display technology.

"At this point, Apple is the only company who is able to roll out micro-LED, a technology that is still at an early stage of development, and cover the high costs incurred by the low yield rate," the person said.
According to Eric Chiou, an analyst at research company WitsView in Taipei, "With micro-LED, Apple is looking to bestow brand-new products with unique designs to really differentiate itself from rivals such as Samsung." Of course, being so far out from a product launch with a micro-LED screen, it's impossible to know exactly what Apple plans to do with the technology, whether it's placed within a next-generation Apple Watch or a separate, unannounced device.

Apple's production ramp-up on micro-LED is said to be the final realization of its acquisition of low-power microLED-based display maker LuxVue in 2014, with rumors specifically surrounding a new micro-LED-powered Apple Watch beginning in summer 2016. Foxconn is also entering the micro-LED supply chain, with plans to acquire display startup eLux, "for development of next-generation micro-LED display technology."


Discuss this article in our forums