Foxconn and Apple Replacing Humans With Robots to Build the iPhone 6?
A company that has over 1 million employees on its roster, Foxconn is the notorious electronics production company that has lines for technology brands across the world, from Acer to Sony to Amazon. So popular are Foxconn’s services that their booming amount of business has made the Taiwanese multinational the world’s largest electronics contractor manufacturer and it is also the third-largest information technology company in terms of revenue. One large reason for that success is the big business that Apple gives them, with Foxconn almost solely responsible for the production of the Cupertino, Calif.’s flagship device, the iPhone, units of which Foxconn makes in the millions to delivers to global consumers. However, despite how famous the company is for its Apple-related work, Foxconn is also dogged with rumors of employee mistreatment, riddled with poor working conditions, terrible pay and environments that are reportedly so stressful to the worker that they’ve resulted in employee deaths, making them as synonymous with worker abuse as they are with well-made electronics. These allegations are perhaps just one reason why Foxconn and Apple are now bringing in robots to do most of the work.
Called “Foxbots” by some, these Foxconn robots cost around $20,000 to $25,000 each to build, making them an incredibly pricey investment for the two companies. Is it worth it though? Both companies seem to think so and with good reason too, as each robot will put together an estimated 30,000 iPhone units per year and with around 10,000 robots looking to be installed in Foxconn’s factories, that pits the amount of iPhones flying off of conveyor belts, into boxes and ready to have our grubby fingerprints swiped over their glossy fronts, at around 300 million units per year.
Just why are these robots needed? It would be easy enough to say ‘because Apple want to make a lot of iPhones’ as that answer would be partly true, but the timing of these robotic hires are just as important. Foxconn has gotten by, with its majority of human workers putting together iPhones in the past, even with Apple as their largest client and they have yet to stumble or struggle even amongst the human rights (or lack thereof) allegations so the suggestion that they are now having to go so far by creating and designing robots that will only be used to build Apple products means that the iPhone 6 is going to be a Very Big Deal. That’s promising for consumers at least as we’ve been looking for a fresh take on the iPhone for some while, left unsatisfied by the annual iterations that have really only added small features (read: screen sizes and fingerprint scanners) with very little being revolutionary. It also means that Apple is really counting on the iPhone 6 doing well as they look to capture markets both within their core audience as well as those outside of it who will be enticed by the iPhone 6’s rumoured fitness focus.
Foxconn CEO Terry Gou was quick to explain that the Foxbots are in the final stages of testing, but it’s actually unknown as to what the robots will bring to the table and if they’ll be responsible for the whole iPhone or just the trickier components of it but whether the robots are heavily influential on the new device or not, it’s certain that the iPhone 6 is going to be an entirely different affair to any of the iPhones we saw before it.