Exclusive: Apple iPhone 6 screen snag leaves supply chain scrambling
By Reiji Murai
TOKYO (Reuters) - Suppliers to Apple Inc (AAPL.O: Quote) are scrambling to get enough screens ready for the new iPhone 6 smartphone as the need to redesign a key component disrupted panel production ahead of next month's expected launch, supply chain sources said.
It's unclear whether the hiccup could delay the launch or limit the number of phones initially available to consumers, the sources said, as Apple readies larger-screen iPhones for the year-end shopping season amid market share loss to cheaper rivals.
But the issue highlights the risks and challenges that suppliers face to meet Apple's tough specifications, and comes on the heels of a separate screen technology problem, since resolved, in making thinner screens for the larger iPhone 6 model.
Cupertino, California-based Apple has scheduled a media event for Sept. 9, and many expect it to unveil the new iPhone 6 with both 4.7 inch (11.94 cm) and 5.5 inch (13.97 cm) screens - bigger than the 4-inch screen on the iPhone 5s and 5c.
Two supply chain sources said display panel production suffered a setback after the backlight that helps illuminate the screen had to be revised, putting screen assembly on hold for part of June and July. One said Apple, aiming for the thinnest phone possible, initially wanted to cut back to a single layer of backlight film, instead of the standard two layers, for the 4.7-inch screen, which went into mass production ahead of the 5.5-inch version.
But the new configuration was not bright enough and the backlight was sent back to the drawing board to fit in the extra layer, costing precious time and temporarily idling some screen assembly operations, the source said.
Output is now back on track and suppliers are working flat-out to make up for lost time, the supply chain sources added.