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

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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

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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

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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."


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Apple Places Order for 70 Million OLED iPhone Panels From Samsung

Production on the 2017 iPhone is moving along, with Apple recently having placed orders for 70 million OLED panels, reports Nikkei. Samsung, as we already know, will be Apple's sole OLED supplier, and will provide Apple with the panels.

Demand for the 2017 iPhone, which is expected to feature a major design overhaul with an edge-to-edge display, glass body, and a premium price tag, is expected to be high as it typically is in a year when a new look is unveiled. Apple and Samsung are gearing up to meet demand with the large panel order.

"iPhone X" concept via Gabor Balogh

Nikkei's info comes from a supply chain source and also matches with estimates provided by IHS Markit analyst David Hsieh.
"Apple has ordered 70 million units of OLED panels from Samsung this year, while Samsung is preparing to churn out as many as 95 million for Apple in 2017, in case demand exceeds expectations," Hsieh said.
There have already been rumors suggesting the OLED iPhone will be in short supply when it launches in September, with the majority of the stock unavailable until later in the year, and Hsieh also believes that could be the case. "It is also possible that some of these 70 million handsets will not be shipped to customers this year and be carried over to next year depending on demand," he said.

Nikkei's industry source, in addition to covering panel orders, also shared some details on the upcoming device that echoes many rumors we've heard in the past.

The site believes we will see a premium OLED iPhone with a 5.2-inch screen and no home button, which will be sold alongside standard 4.7 and 5.5-inch devices with LCD screens and home buttons. All three iPhones will include wireless charging functionality (lately said to be inductive) and waterproofing, while at least one model, presumably the OLED iPhone, will include a 3D sensor that supports facial recognition.

Other features rumored for the iPhone 8 not mentioned in Nikkei's report include camera improvements, a faster and more efficient A11 processor, Touch ID built into the display, True Tone ambient light adjustment, and perhaps augmented reality functionality enabled through the camera.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8 (2017)
Tag: nikkei.com

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5.8-Inch iPhone Said to Have Curved Display, But Not as Curved as Galaxy S7 Edge

Apple's widely rumored 5.8-inch iPhone will feature a curved OLED display, although the curve will be gentler than Samsung's Galaxy S7 Edge, according to Japanese website Nikkei Asian Review.

The curve will be gentler than screens in Samsung's Galaxy S7 Edge handsets. This is partly due to the challenges of making curved glass covers to match screens, according to the source.

While the curved screen will allow a viewable area of about 5.2 inches and make the iPhone even sleeker, it will not offer significant new functions, the person said.
The report comes just a few days after IHS Markit said it "anticipates Apple will adopt a flat implementation of OLED design on their special iPhone model, which is analogous to the current 2.5D glass design."

Meanwhile, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and Chinese research firm TrendForce have said the 5.8-inch iPhone will feature the same gently curved 2.5D cover glass as used since the iPhone 6 in 2014.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8 (2017)
Tag: nikkei.com

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Nikkei Now Agrees ‘iPhone 8’ Will Have Larger 5.8-Inch OLED Display

Apple will launch three new iPhone models in the fall, including one with a 5.8-inch OLED display and two with LCD displays, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

While this is a rumor we have heard several times already, the Japanese website previously said Apple would launch a 5-inch iPhone—not 5.8 inches—in 2017.

The relevant bit from today's report:
The upcoming iPhone, to be launched this fall, will come in three configurations -- two with liquid crystal displays and one with a 5.8-inch organic light-emitting diode display.
Here's what it reported last October:
"Apple has tentatively decided that all the 5.5-inch, 5-inch and 4.7-inch models will have glass backs, departing from metal casings adopted by current iPhones, and Biel and Lens are likely to be providing all the glass backs for the new iPhones next year," the source said.
5.8 inches is now the widely agreed upon screen size for Apple's first iPhone with an OLED display, but there is likely a reasonable explanation as to why Nikkei and two other reports suggested the model would have a 5-inch display.

Namely, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said while the so-called "iPhone 8" will indeed have a 5.8-inch display, the primary area will actually be 5.15 inches, while the rest of the space will be reserved for a wide row of virtual buttons. Kuo also said the device's physical dimensions will likely be similar to a 4.7-inch iPhone.

Given the size variation between the OLED panel, display area, and physical dimensions rumored, it remains unclear if Apple will officially categorize the "iPhone 8" as 5.1 inches, 5.2 inches, 5.8 inches, or a different size.

Apple is expected to remove the Home button to make room for the larger display without significantly increasing the device's overall footprint. The bezels surrounding the display are also expected to be removed, although a very slim top bezel could remain to house the front-facing camera and earpiece cutout.

While some reports have suggested Touch ID may be entirely replaced with biometric technologies such as iris or facial recognition or even ultrasound, Apple has filed a patent for a fingerprint sensor embedded underneath a touchscreen. Apple also has a patent for integrating the ambient light sensor into the display.

The much-rumored 5.8-inch iPhone, which has also been coined the "iPhone Pro" or "iPhone X" in honor of the smartphone's tenth anniversary this year, could cost upwards of $1,000 in the United States. It is expected to be announced in September alongside updated 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch models.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8 (2017)
Tags: OLED, nikkei.com

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Apple Will Reduce iPhone 7 Production By 10% in Early 2017 Due to ‘Sluggish’ Sales

Apple plans to reduce production of the iPhone line by 10 percent beginning in the first quarter of 2017, according to supplier data collected by Nikkei. Apple is said to have experienced a similar situation thanks to accumulated inventory of the iPhone 6s late in 2015, which also caused it to lower output of that smartphone in Q1 2016.

The company attempted to prevent the same thing from happening again with the iPhone 7 by curbing production quantities on the 2016 smartphone, but even with that preemptive move Apple is again looking at a manufacturing downturn for its flagship iPhone line in the new year.

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In the report, Nikkei cites "sluggish" global sales for the iPhone 7 as the main reason behind the move. Because of this, the production cuts are expected to be focused on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.
Apple will trim production of its iPhone family around 10% on the year in the first quarter of 2017, according to calculations by The Nikkei based on data from suppliers.

...the phones still have sold more sluggishly than expected. Information on production of the latest models and global sales suggests cuts in both the 7 and 7 Plus lines in the coming quarter.
Apple could have capitalized on Samsung's Galaxy Note7 problems earlier in the year, but according to a collection of analysts the iPhone 7 lacked "compelling" features and failed to garner interest in the new smartphone line. In September, Apple made the decision not to divulge the first weekend sales for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Throughout the year, a "doom and gloom" sentiment has followed the company ever since it reported its first revenue decline in thirteen years.

Later in 2017, Apple will launch the next-generation iPhone, which is currently rumored to come in three different sizes, one of which will include a flexible OLED display with a bezel-free design. Rumors are still conflicting, however, with a report from Mac Otakara suggesting that next year's iPhone could be an iterative update on the design of the iPhone 7 with beefed up internals.

Related Roundup: iPhone 7
Tag: nikkei.com

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