iPhone 8 Leaks Disappoint, Apple’s investing in PCB equipment?

It’s been a bad week for the iPhone 8, with reports coming in of delays, missed technological milestones, and potentially awkward decisions.

According to report Apple doesn’t plan to use the equipment itself, but is instead leasing it to suppliers to ensure it can get the components it needs for the iPhone 8 amid rumors of production difficulties.

The equipment cost Apple “tens of millions of dollars” and will be used to create the aforementioned circuit boards, which are a key component that connect parts like the iPhone’s display and camera.

A rigid flexible printed circuit board (or RFPCB), which combines both flexible and rigid technologies in a single board to conserve space, is reportedly more difficult to produce than standard rigid or flexible PCBs.

iPhone 7 logic board, image via iFixit

Apple made the purchase after one of three suppliers it planned to source parts from backed out of the deal. Interflex and Youngpoong Electronics, two Korean companies, are said to be producing the components going forward.

“One of the three suppliers recently decided to back out,” a source told ET News on condition of anonymity, saying that the supplier is a Taiwanese manufacturer.

The exact reason why the Taiwanese supplier withdrew from the deal with a big client Apple was not revealed. But sources say the firm may have felt a pinch on the tricky production and strict quality requirements along with low profitability.

With one supplier pulling out of the deal, Apple decided to make sure the remaining suppliers can meet capacity. “To fill the loss, Apple is supporting the other two suppliers, both Korean, to beef up production,” said The Korea Herald’s source.

…further iPhone 8 problems exist with the integration of Touch ID into the display, the supply of OLED for the display itself and operation of the new front facing “3D sensor” camera – which will bring unlocking via facial recognition.

In fact these problems are reported to be so severe that several of the functions will not be available when the phone launches, forcing Apple to enable them later via a software update (John Gruber seconds this). A similar route was taken with Portrait Mode on the iPhone 7 Plus, but these faults would be a far bigger deal.

One of the other areas where the iPhone 8 is falling behind is in wireless charging, with reports that Apple will not be making it available at launch and it will need an update to iOS to make it work. That worries me, because dedicated base stations and software requirements suggest a proprietary system.

Given Apple’s history of proprietary technology, I’d suggest, with a heavy heart, that Tim Cook and his team have decided against an open standards, and will be tweaking the frequency and operation of its inductive charging system to lock users into Apple’s ecosystem.

If you want the convenience of charging the iPhone 8 wirelessly, you’ll be purchasing either Apple’s own base stations, or base stations approved by Apple through the ‘Made For iPhone’ program.

The loss of Touch ID is expected to be mitigated by a new facial recognition system, which makes the recently published patent around Apple’s Facial ID system not just intriguing, but also a key validation of the leaks around both the software and the expected hardware in the new smartphone.

In practice, authentication software contains instructions for detecting a user’s face opposite one or more of the included imaging sensors. In response to detecting a face, the visible light, infrared and 3D capture devices gather image data for local processing.

Facial attributes detected in captured image data are compared against a library of authorized users for authentication. Importantly, the patent application notes the techniques described can be used to unlock a portable device, like an iPhone.

Perhaps not coincidentally, a nearly identical list of hardware is predicted for inclusion in Apple’s upcoming “iPhone 8.

With the iPhone 8 expected to be delayed and not arrive in retail stores till November (and even then in limited quantities) Apple has to keep its audience excited and engaged around the tenth-anniversary handset… and willing to wait a few months to buy it.

But at the same September event it is expected to update the 7 family to the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus. Can it find the balance between updating these handsets and selling them by the millions while ensuring that the iPhone 8 will still have an audience?

Since the start of the year a number of quantum leaps have been ripped away from the iPhone 8. Areas such as on-screen Touch ID and at a distance wireless charging have been downgraded to facial recognition (possibly backed up by a Touch ID sensor in the power button) and the industry standard Qi wireless charging system.

The iPhone 8 may be a leap forward for Apple with its curved OLED screen and glass chassis, but it simply matches much of the tech that has become established in the Android market.

The iPhone 7S and 7S Plus are going to be impressive handsets to existing iPhone users. They are both going to offer intoxicating upgrade paths. With the iPhone 8 pushing the $1000 barrier for a SIM-free handset, the 7S family is going to be cheaper.

And with countless users on two-year contracts looking to upgrade from the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus models they signed up for in 2015, the handset that will be top of the list in the upgrade period will not be an iPhone 8, but an iPhone 7S.

OLED For All In 2018

The iPhone 8 is expected to be Apple’s first smartphone with an OLED screen, but the iPhone 7S family are expected to stay with LCD screens. The latest reports are that these could be the last LCD equipped handsets to be launched by Apple with a total conversion of the new iPhone portfolio to OLED in 2018.

Citing “two industry sources”, Nikkei’s Debby Wu says Apple’s plans to launch an OLED iPhone 8 and two LCD-based and incrementally upgraded iPhone 7S and iPhone 7S Plus models will get significantly more ambitious next year and demand is likely to lead to shortages across OLED manufacturing worldwide. Wu also says Apple will again launch three new iPhones in 2018.

To Top