The clock is ticking. According to about every known source in the tech-o-sphere, Apple is planning to debut its next-generation iPhone on September 12. Moreover, rumors persist of a September 21 street date; that's only a few weeks away. Needless to say, now would not be a good time for a delay in the manufacturing chain.
But a potential shortage of iPhone 5 screens is exactly what someone with insight to the manufacturing process has mentioned to The Wall Street Journal. According to the source, Sharp has yet to ramp up production on the new phone's LCD display.
Apparently, Apple has contracted with three suppliers for the liquid crystal displays in the iPhone 5. While Japan Display Inc. and LG Display Co. have reportedly started to ship the component to Apple, Sharp is finding the new manufacturing process a bit difficult.
The next iPhone is alleged to feature a new in-cell LCD panel; placing the touch sensors directly into the LCD means a thinner profile. But like anything new, manufacturing the displays means a new process -- and Sharp is apparently having issues.
Manufacturing delays aren't the only problem at Sharp, either. The company's credit was recently downgraded to "junk status" by Standard & Poor. The occasionally vilified Apple manufacturing partner, Foxconn, was set to invest an almost 10% stake in Sharp. But the Japanese company's beleaguered stock is causing Foxconn to reconsider the arrangement. The two companies were considering a $1 billion investment to increase output, according to Reuters.
So, what's going to happen on September 21, if the iPhone hits the streets? Obviously, if the iPhone 5 follows the successful launch-sales of its predecessors, the masses will demand an awful lot of iPhones. While a delay at Sharp could present a major problem, there's no indication as to what percentage of the LCD manufacturing volume the company holds in comparison to LG and Japan Display.
Undoubtedly, if Sharp can't get its act together, Cupertino will shift more of the load to the other two manufacturers -- or find a new supplier all-together. At least we hope, because lining up in front of the Apple store all night is a literal pain in the butt.
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(Image credit: NY Daily News)
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