UPDATED 20:44 EDT / NOVEMBER 06 2022


Apple warns iPhone supplies have been affected by COVID restrictions in China

Apple Inc. today issued a warning that supplies of the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max will be lower than previously anticipated because of COVID-19 restrictions at a factory located in Zhengzhou, China.

Apple didn’t say how restrictive the supply of iPhone Pro models would be, but the company did warn that customers would experience longer wait times to receive their new products. Apple added that it’s “working closely with our supplier to return to normal production levels while ensuring the health and safety of every worker.”

The supplier in question is Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd. (Foxconn) and it has taken a week for Apple to admit that there are problems at the factory. As reported on Oct. 31, the Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou, the largest iPhone factory in the world with around 300,000 workers, was placed under a closed-loop system following a COVID-19 outbreak. Under the COVID prevention system, workers are shut off from the outside world and can only move between their dorms or homes to the production line.

Foxconn had previously denied what it called “online rumors” and instead claimed that only a “small number of employees” were affected by the COVID outbreak.

An outbreak and lockdowns at a Foxconn factory making goods for Apple are not new. Similar disruptions occurred at an iPhone factory in Shenzhen in March, but this time is very different because thousands of employees have been fleeing Zhengzhou.

Reports of workers fleeing the factory lockdown first emerged last week, but the scale of Foxconn workers fleeing Zhengzhou to avoid being locked down has only recently become known.

Footage of workers fleeing has circulated within mainland China and made its way to the West, and the footage is remarkable. Videos show workers facing off on a highway against police, workers walking along highways while dragging luggage along, looking for ways out of the city and others on the back of trucks trying to get away.

Although it’s impossible to put a number on it, some online commentary suggests that after nearly three years of Xi Jinping’s zero-COVID policy, at least some people in China have had enough. That workers have been fleeing the iPhone plant during a lockdown also shows how desperate people have become, since doing so breaches Chinese law. Those caught risk penalties that include fines, jail time and downgraded social credit scores.

For those in the West, the delays in obtaining a top-model iPhone are nothing compared with the rigors of the already poorly paid iPhone factory employees suffering through another lockdown.

This lockdown may pass, but there appear to be no signs of the Chinese Community Party backing down from its zero-COVID policy anytime soon. Until they do, Western companies such as Apple that rely on mainland China manufacturing facilities will continue to face ongoing issues, delays and new lockdowns in the months and possibly even years ahead. It’s not surprising that smartphone makers, including Chinese companies, have been shifting their manufacturing facilities out of China.

Photo: Unsplash

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