Apple Supplier Ramps Up Production of AirPods 2 Parts to Meet High Demand

The manufacturer of rigid-flex printed circuit boards (PCBs) used in Apple's AirPods 2 is ramping up production of the technology into early 2020 at least, despite rumors that Apple will launch two new AirPods models as early as this year with a different internal design.


DigiTimes reports that Apple supplier Unitech Printed Circuit Board still sees the rigid-flex PCB combination as the mainstream technology for truly wireless headphones, and will expand its production capacity in Taiwan by 25-30 percent in 2019 to meet increased demand from clients.

In contrast, Apple's two new AirPods models are expected to make use of SiP (system in package) technology, which will improve assembly yield rates, save internal space and reduce cost.

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo forecasts that the two new models will likely go into mass production between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2020.

Kuo has said one of the new AirPods models will feature an "all-new form factor design" and a "higher price" than the second-generation AirPods, which cost $159 with a standard charging case and $199 with a wireless charging case. The other model is expected to be a more iterative update to AirPods 2 with the same pricing.

In March 2019, Apple launched its second-generation AirPods powered by an Apple-designed H1 chip, enabling hands-free "Hey Siri" functionality and up to 50 percent more talk time compared to the original AirPods. The second-generation AirPods feature the same outward design as the original.

Bloomberg reported that Apple's third-generation AirPods will feature a new design and perhaps improved water resistance that will allow the AirPods to hold up to "splashes of water and rain."

The AirPods aren't likely to be entirely water resistant, however, and won't be able to be submerged in liquid. These third-generation AirPods are also rumored to include noise cancellation features and increase the distance that AirPods can be listened to away from an iPhone or iPad.

Samsung, Huawei, Sony and Google are all actively developing their own truly wireless headphones, many of which are expected to use the older rigid-flex PCB technology. Apple now dominates nearly 70 percent of the truly wireless headphone market, according to DigiTimes, suggesting Apple's adoption of the new SiP tech could give the company an even greater advantage over rivals as the market continues to grow.

Related Roundup: AirPods 2
Buyer's Guide: AirPods (Buy Now)

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Report Claims AirPods 3 With Noise Canceling Feature to Launch Later This Year

DigiTimes reports this morning that Apple is set to launch third-generation AirPods with a noise cancelation function by the end of the year, contradicting an earlier rumor that said Apple's AirPods 3 have been pushed back to 2020.

Apple is reportedly set to release its third-generation AirPods for sales by the end of 2019, with the new wireless earphones to incorporate a noise cancellation function. And Taiwan's Inventec reportedly will be the major assembler of AirPods 3, while China's Luxshare Precision will also grab part of the orders for the new device, according to industry sources.
Today's report claims that Apple will fend off competition from rival brands of true wireless earbuds by including a noise-canceling function in its third-generation AirPods, although doing so could throw up new design and assembly challenges.
The sources said that noise cancellation is not a new technology, but a technology hard to harness. On the one hand, semiconductor devices can hardly work without suffering electromagnetic disturbance, and on the other hand how the structural design of the noise forward feedback microphone can be done well to achieve harmonious operation with other devices is a great challenge for designers and assemblers.

In addition, earphones with noise-cancellation function will consume more power than those without, and it remains to be seen how Apple will do to reduce power consumption, the sources indicated.
Taiwan's Inventec is said to be uniquely positioned to meet the production challenges of AirPods 3, thanks to its extensive assembly experiences, giving the manufacturer a better chance of winning assembly orders from Apple than China's Luxshare Precision. As it stands, the assemblers command an equal share of orders for AirPods 2.

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has also claimed that Apple's third-generation AirPods could include noise cancellation features, as well as a new design, and perhaps improved water resistance that will allow the AirPods to hold up to "splashes of water and rain."

However, Gurman believes that AirPods 3 now won't be ready until next year, and that aligns better with the current consensus. Apple only launched AirPods 2 with optional wireless charging and hands-free Siri functionality in March 2019, making the introduction of another model this year seem unlikely, but not impossible.

Related Roundup: AirPods 2
Buyer's Guide: AirPods (Buy Now)

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Apple to Adopt Mini LED Display Tech in Future Macs and iPads, Starting With 31.6-inch iMac to Launch Later This Year

Apple will switch to mini LED backlighting for a raft of hardware coming over the next three years including a 31.6-inch iMac to be launched in the second or third quarter of 2019, reports DigiTimes this morning.

Apple will adopt mini LED backlighting for a 31.6-inch iMac to be launched in the second or third quarter of 2019, a 10- to 12-inch iPad to be unveiled in fourth-quarter 2020 or first-quarter 2021, and a 15- to 17-inch MacBook to be introduced in first-half 2021, according to a analyst Kuo Ming-chi at TF International Securities.
Today's DigiTimes report cites comments made by well-known analyst Ming-Chi Kuo to local media, a machine translation of which we covered on Monday. That report, which carried a warning of possible mistranslation, referred to a 31.6-inch 6K standalone display, but DigiTimes refers multiple times to an iMac with the same dimensions.

The report goes on to note that Apple is settling on mini LED technology for its wide color gamut, high contrast ratio, high dynamic range and local dimming.
The backlight unit (BLU) to be used in the 31.6-inch iMac will be made of about 500 LED chips of 600 microns in size, with Japan-based Nichia to supply the LEDs, Kuo said.

Strictly speaking, this is a quasi-mini LED BLU because the chip size is much larger than those of standard mini LEDs, according to industry sources. However, the use of such a BLU will give opportunities for the supply chain to improve mini LED production in cost and yield rate, the sources noted.
More than 10,000 mini LEDs will be needed for the "10- to 12-inch iPad," according to the report, and these LEDs will be made by Epistar. Meanwhile, LCD panels will come from LG Display and BLUs by Radiant Opto-Electronics, and all three companies will form parts of the supply chain for the mini LED-backlit MacBook.

Related Roundups: iMac, MacBook Pro

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Apple Will Reportedly Launch Three OLED iPhones in 2020 Including Smaller 5.42-inch Model With Thinner Display

Apple plans to launch a trio of OLED iPhones next year that includes smaller and larger-sized models than the current crop of Apple's flagship smartphones, according to sources from Taiwan's supply chain.


DigiTimes reports this morning that Apple will release three OLED iPhones in 2020 available in 5.42-, 6.06- and 6.67-inch sizes.

Meanwhile DigiTimes' sources indicate that, as expected, this year's three models will follow the screen technologies and sizes of 2018 iPhones; namely, two OLED models with 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch screens, and a 6.1-inch LCD model.

In a noteworthy tidbit coming out Taiwan's handset component supply chain, the smallest iPhone model coming in 2020 will reportedly include Samsung or LG touchscreen tech that will allow Apple to make the phone of the display thinner than on previous handsets.
Additionally, the 5.42-inch model to be released in 2020 may come with either Samsung Display's Y-Octa or LG Display's TOE touch technology, indicated the sources, noting that both touch solutions promises to trim down the display cost.

Y-Octa is an advanced flexible AMOLED display technology that removes the film substrate and allows the touch circuit to be directly patterned on the film's encapsulation layer, making the display thinner, indicated the sources.
According to DigiTimes' sources, Samsung will maintain its dominance as the main OLED panel supplier for Apple next year, while it remains to be seen whether LG or BOE Technology can gain OLED panel orders from the company.

The same supply chain sources estimate that Apple will ship between 80 and 82 million iPhones in the first half of this year and around 180-190 million units for all of 2019.

Previous rumors suggest 2020 iPhones will feature triple-lens rear camera arrangements, improved photo capturing tools, and more powerful processors. Bloomberg has suggested it could be a prelude to an AR headset, and past rumors have indicated Apple could launch that device as early as 2020.

Related Roundup: 2019 iPhones

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AirPower to Launch in ‘Late March’ According to DigiTimes Sources

Apple plans to release its long-awaited wireless charging mat AirPower in "late March" according to Taiwanese publication DigiTimes. We're in late March now, so if the report is accurate, then a release should be imminent.


The report cites unnamed "industry sources" within Apple's supply chain:
Lite-On Semiconductor, a maker of discrete and analog IC components, is expected to see its second-quarter revenues register a double-digit sequential growth as it will soon kick off volume shipments of GPP (glass passivated package) bridge rectifiers needed for Apple's wireless charger AirPower, according to industry sources.

The sources said that Apple's AirPower wireless charger for iPhones, Apple Watch and AirPods is set to be officially launched in late March, which will significantly drive up Lite-On's revenues for the second quarter of 2019.
There are 10 days remaining in March including today.

DigiTimes has a mixed track record when it comes to predicting the timing of Apple product releases. While the publication has sources within Apple's suppliers in Asia, particularly in Taiwan, supply chain sources are typically more privy to what is coming rather than when. In short, we'll see.

There is certainly increasing evidence pointing towards an upcoming release.

Yesterday, after receiving a tip from reader Michael Bateman, MacRumors uncovered what appears to be a new image of the AirPower with an iPhone XS and the new AirPods wireless charging case on it.


MacRumors also uncovered evidence to suggest that Apple has secured the rights to the AirPower trademark in the United States.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple approved production of the AirPower earlier this year, and reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has said the AirPower will be released within the first half of 2019.

AirPower is designed to charge multiple Apple devices at once, including the iPhone 8 and newer, Apple Watch Series 3 and newer, and AirPods when they are placed in the new optional wireless charging case introduced on Wednesday.

Apple introduced new iPads on Monday, new iMacs on Tuesday, and new AirPods on Wednesday of this week.


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Apple Suppliers ‘Gearing Up for Mass Production’ of Updated iPad and AirPods

Companies in Apple's supply chain are reportedly "gearing up for mass production" of updated iPad and AirPods models, according to Taiwanese site DigiTimes.

Flexible PCB firms Flexium Interconnect and Zhen Ding Technology are gearing up for mass production for Apple's next-generation iPad devices, while Compeq Manufacturing and Unitech PCB supply rigid-flex boards for the forthcoming AirPods, according to industry sources.
The report says that both updates are expected to come at Apple's March 25 event, although reliable sources have indicated the event will focus on Apple's upcoming news and video services with no hardware announcements planned.

Minor hardware updates could come silently alongside the event or via press release around the same time, as DigiTimes's insights via the supply chain are likely limited to production timing rather than event specifics.

Hints of an updated low-cost iPad have been growing, with new iPad models appearing in a regulatory database back in January. Rumors have suggested the entry-level iPad could see its display grow from 9.7 inches to around 10.2 inches thanks to slimmer bezels, but we're not expecting to see Face ID and removal of the home button with this update.

As for AirPods, we've been hearing about an imminent update for many months now, with Apple's plans seemingly delayed as the company continues work on its AirPower charging mat. Updated AirPods would include a wireless charging case to work with the AirPower mat, as well as other upgrades including "Hey Siri" support and possibly new health monitoring features, a "grippy" texture, and maybe even a new black color option.

Related Roundups: iPad, AirPods 2

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New iPads Expected in First Half of 2019, Including iPad Mini 5 With Similar Design as iPad Mini 4

Apple is also set to launch new iPad models in the first half of 2019, according to Taiwanese supply chain website DigiTimes.


One of those new models is expected to be the so-called iPad mini 5, but anyone hoping for a major redesign should lower their expectations, as Japanese blog Mac Otakara reports that the tablet will have a similar design as the iPad mini 4.

Mac Otakara claims the iPad mini 5 will have identical dimensions as the iPad mini 4, including a thickness of 6.1mm, suggesting that the tablet will have the same 7.9-inch display is bezel size remains unchanged. The blog also expects the tablet to retain a Lightning connector, Touch ID, and 3.5mm headphone jack.

One design change expected is the repositioning of the rear microphone to a top-center position in line with the sixth-generation iPad.

The report claims it is unclear whether the iPad mini 5 will have an A10 Fusion chip akin to the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, and sixth-generation iPad, or an A10X Fusion chip in line with 2017 iPad Pro models and the Apple TV 4K.

It's also unclear if the iPad mini 5 will support the original Apple Pencil, but second-generation Apple Pencil support seems to be ruled out.

Related Roundup: iPad mini 5
Buyer's Guide: iPad Mini (Don't Buy)

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Compal Expected to Assemble iPad Mini 5 Launching ‘Later in 2019’

Taiwanese manufacturer Compal Electronics is expected to be a supplier of the so-called iPad mini 5 when the tablet launches later in 2019, according to DigiTimes. This would likely entail final assembly of the device.

iPad mini 4

Rumors suggest Apple will release the new iPad mini as early as this spring, likely alongside a new seventh-generation iPad with a slightly larger 10-inch display. Apple's plans to release a new iPad mini have been reported by Ming-Chi Kuo, Mark Gurman, DigiTimes, and the China Times.

Apple has debuted new iPads in March for three consecutive years, including the 9.7-inch iPad Pro in 2016, the fifth-generation iPad in 2017, and the sixth-generation iPad in 2018, so there's a good chance that Apple will unveil the iPad mini 5 and the new 10-inch iPad in a little over a month from now.

Kuo said the new iPad mini will feature an upgraded processor and a lower-cost panel, but few details are known beyond that.

The current iPad mini 4 was released in September 2015. The tablet features a 7.9-inch display with 326 PPI, A8 chip, 2GB of RAM, Touch ID, 8-megapixel rear camera, a Lightning connector, dual speakers, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. It is available with 128GB of storage for $399 (Wi-Fi) and $529 (LTE).

Related Roundup: iPad mini 5
Buyer's Guide: iPad Mini (Don't Buy)

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Next-Gen AirPods With ‘Health Monitoring’ Features Said to be Coming in First Half of 2019

DigiTimes reports today that Apple will release next-generation AirPods that include "health monitoring features" in the first half of 2019.


In terms of wireless headsets, Apple is set to release AirPods 2 sometime in the first half of 2019, and the new wireless earbuds with discrete designs to carry health monitoring functions are expected to receive enthusiastic market responses.
The mention appears in an article focusing on how wearables are expected to drive rigid-flex PCB market growth in 2019, but the report cites no sources for the AirPods rumor, and only mentions that Tiawan-based printed circuit board makers Zhen Ding Tech and Flexium Interconnect supply components for Apple Watch and AirPods "at the moment."

DigiTimes' sources often provide reliable information, but the site has a mixed track record when it comes to interpreting that information and accurately deciphering Apple's plans. The news site receives a flood of data from the Asian supply chain, some of which it claims pertains to prototypes or test products that never make it to market or change significantly before launch, skewing its accuracy.

With that in mind, and without corroborating sources, DigiTimes could be referring to a prediction from well-connected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo that new AirPods with a wireless charging case would debut late in the fourth quarter of 2018 or early in the first quarter of 2019. Kuo later clarified that report to say that he expects new wireless AirPods in early 2019.

Listings for New AirPods were added to the Bluetooth Special Interest Group's regulatory database in November, suggesting a refreshed version of the accessory could well be coming soon. No new features are listed, but upcoming AirPods in the database do support the Bluetooth 5.0 specification, compared to Bluetooth 4.0 in the prior-generation AirPods.

Apple is also said working on third-generation AirPods that are set to be released in 2020 with a new design and perhaps improved water resistance that will allow the AirPods to hold up to "splashes of water and rain."

The AirPods aren't likely to be entirely water resistant, however, and won't be able to be submerged in liquid. These third-generation AirPods are also rumored to include noise cancellation features and increase the distance that AirPods can be listened to away from an iPhone or iPad.

Related Roundup: AirPods
Buyer's Guide: AirPods (Caution)

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AirPower to Launch ‘Later in 2019’ According to DigiTimes

Apple's long-awaited wireless charging mat AirPower has entered production and will be released later this year, according to DigiTimes:
Glass passivated package (GPP) bridge rectifier orders for Apple's AirPower continue to pull in, according to sources at related suppliers, who expect shipments for the wireless charger to boost further when it becomes available later in 2019.

Apple's AirPower is finally in production, said the sources. The Apple-designed wireless charging device was unveiled in September 2017, with the company originally targeting 2018 for launch.
The supply chain-focused website published a similar article last year claiming the AirPower would be released by the end of March 2018, a release date echoed by at least two other sources at the time. That obviously did not happen, but perhaps the issues that led to the delay are now resolved.


This isn't the first report we've seen that suggests the AirPower is still coming after all.

Earlier this month, Hong Kong website ChargerLAB cited sources within Apple's supply chain who claimed that manufacturers Luxshare Precision and Pegatron have both started production of the AirPower by today.


A few weeks prior, developer Steve Troughton-Smith said he's heard Apple may have overcome technical challenges with the AirPower and could move forward with a release. Those technical challenges included overheating and interference issues, according to Sonny Dickson, an occasional source of Apple leaks.


And back in October, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed that Apple may launch the AirPower by early in the first quarter of 2019, according to a research note obtained by MacRumors. The first quarter spans January through March.

AirPower is an oval-shaped mat that would be able to wirelessly charge multiple Apple devices at once, including the iPhone 8 and newer, Apple Watch Series 3 and newer, and AirPods when they are placed in an optional wireless charging case that is expected to launch alongside the AirPower.

Apple first previewed the AirPower at Steve Jobs Theater in September 2017, shortly after introducing the iPhone X, and indicated that it would be released at some point in 2018 in a press release. Apple failed to deliver on that promise, however, and hasn't commented on the AirPower for many months.

Apple also removed all but a few mentions of the AirPower from its website in September 2018. The mat is, however, still referenced in the latest iPhone user guides and in some recent Apple job listings. We also spotted a since-removed AirPower reference on the iPhone XS Smart Battery Case page in Malaysia.

All in all, the chances of the AirPower launching soon are looking better and better.


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