FYI: We reckon the iPhone 14 Max is heading in the right direction — here's why.
The odds of the iPhone 14 suffering production delays and stock shortages have increased after the city of Zhengzhou, China was placed into an immediate lockdown (opens in new tab) following a Covid-19 outbreak. This development could also impact the ongoing availability of the iPhone 13.
This outbreak is extremely concerning news for Apple, as Zhengzhou is home to the world’s largest iPhone production plant. In fact, Apple’s presence in the area is so significant that it’s nicknamed iPhone City. While Zhengzhou has so far avoided any lockdowns, the Chinese government has just placed the city into a one-week quarantine in the wake of discovering 14 local cases.
While most of the world has adopted a “live with Covid” strategy, China continues with its efforts to fully eradicate the virus. This means radical measures like locking down an entire city after barely more than a dozen cases are discovered are fairly common.
Ironically, this news come less than 24 hours after it was reported that Apple was taking steps to prevent iPhone 14 shortages by asking major device manufacturer Foxconn to recruit iPhone assembly line workers in China earlier than it usually does. It reportedly took this step to ensure its plant in Zhengzhou was operating at full capacity, in order to make up for lost production in other parts of China that were experiencing lockdowns. However, according to the South China Morning Post (opens in new tab), Foxconn has now had to suspend the recruitment of new workers "until further notice."
This development showcases the importance of Apple’s closed-loop production system, which is being deployed in Zhengzhou. This means that most workers actually live within accommodation at the facility, and may stay on the site for weeks at a time. Apple will hope that safeguarding measures like this will allow iPhones to still be produced, even if the Zhengzhou lockdown is extended further.
Nevertheless, this development could have a knock-on effect on both the current supply of the iPhone 13 and the availability of the iPhone 14 later this year. Apple’s plant in Zhengzhou had been picking up the slack when other parts of China were in lockdown, but now the single biggest iPhone production line is directly affected.
It's not clear at this stage what impact the Zhengzhou situation will have, but recent lockdowns in Shanghai and Kunshan have dented Apple’s production capacities, affecting the supply of iPads and MacBooks. The last thing the company needed was iPhone City to also join the list of areas in lockdown. And while it seems highly unlikely that the iPhone 14 will be pushed from its 2022 release window in the wake of these lockdowns, the launch supply of the smartphone could be impacted to some degree.
This situation once again brings into question Apple’s continued dependence on China as an assembly hub. A Bloomberg report (opens in new tab) from earlier this week shines a light on the issue, and points out that Apple’s reliance on China has “caused headaches for the company, investors and consumers during the pandemic.”