Foxconn Reportedly Investing in MicroLED Display Tech for Future iPhones

Foxconn is broadening investment in MicroLED display technology in a bid to win orders from Apple for future iPhones, according to a report from the Chinese-language Economic Daily News (via DigiTimes).

MicroLED is widely considered to be Apple's next step after OLED, which it currently uses for the Apple Watch and iPhone XS. MicroLED displays have many of the same advantages that OLED displays have over LCDs, including improved color accuracy, improved contrast ratio, faster response times, and true blacks – given both have self-lit pixels.

However MicroLED displays are thinner, brighter, and more energy efficient than OLED panels. MicroLED displays also have inorganic gallium nitride-based LEDs, which have a longer lifespan than the organic compound used in OLED displays and should make them more resistant to burn-in issues.

Apple's interest in MicroLED was first reported in 2014, when it acquired MicroLED display maker LuxVue. The following year it was discovered that the iPhone maker had also opened a secretive laboratory in Taoyuan, Taiwan to research display technologies like OLED and MicroLED for future devices.

In 2017, the company reportedly scaled back its efforts at that center, possibly switching to a facility closer to home: Apple is believed to have a secretive manufacturing plant in Santa Clara, California, where it is designing and producing display test samples using MicroLED technology.

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Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is understood to be providing support for producing smaller form factor applications, which could include future Apple Watch models and AR wearables. Apple has also reportedly had preliminary talks with Taiwan-based company PlayNitride over cooperation in the MicroLED market.

It will likely be a few years before MicroLED displays appear in Apple products – perhaps one year for the Apple Watch and two to four years for the iPhone – once MicroLED displays can be mass produced both reliably and affordably.

When that time comes, Apple will likely outsource full-scale production of the displays, and Foxconn is clearly planning to pick up at least some of the business, if today's report is anything to go on.


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Foxconn ‘Remains Committed’ to Wisconsin Plant and Promise of Eventually Employing 13,000 Workers

Apple supplier Foxconn today said that it remains committed to its contract to build a display plant and research facility in Wisconsin (via Reuters). The company's comment comes a few days after Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers said that the state wanted to renegotiate the Foxconn deal, partly due to the belief that the Taiwanese company was not expected to reach its goal of creating 13,000 jobs in Wisconsin.


Foxconn's original goal for the project was to eventually employ 13,000 workers on the site, and today the company has confirmed that it "remains committed" to this plan. Foxconn initially announced the project in 2017 at a White House event alongside President Donald Trump. Governor Evers recently took office in January 2019, inheriting the deal to Give Foxconn $4 billion in tax breaks and other incentives.
“Foxconn’s commitment to job creation in Wisconsin remains long term and will span over the length of the WEDC (Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation) contract and beyond.”
Over the years, Foxconn's Wisconsin plant has gone through many iterations as the supplier faced new roadblocks and cost-cutting measures. The plant was designated as a TV display factory in its early stages, then pivoted to small to medium-size displays for smartphones, infotainment systems, and other "niche products".

In early 2019, Reuters reported that Foxconn would greatly scale back its plans to produce displays of any kind in Wisconsin and instead focus on research and development. The news came from Louis Woo, assistant to Foxconn CEO Terry Gou, who said Foxconn is "not building a factory" in Wisconsin.

According to Woo, the steep cost of making advanced screens for TV sets and other devices in the United States led to the decision. Around the same time, the company confirmed it had slowed its pace of hiring, down to about 5,200 people expected by the end of 2020.

As of now, Foxconn has fallen short of its employment goals in 2018, hiring just 178 full-time workers rather than the 260 it intended to for the year. The supplier has to meet certain hiring and capital investment goals under its current contract to qualify for tax credits in Wisconsin. With its inability to meet the 260 hiring target last year, it failed to earn a tax credit of up to $9.5 million.

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Foxconn CEO Terry Gou Plans to Step Back, Confirms iPhone Production Will Begin in India

Terry Gou, the chairman and CEO of Foxconn, plans to step back from day-to-day operations of the company in the coming months.

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From the South China Morning Post:
"I'm already 69 years old. I hope to pass down my 45 years of experience to young people," said Gou on the sidelines of an event in Taipei on Monday. "That's the goal I set up – let young people learn sooner and take over my position sooner. Then I have more time to make long-term planning for the company."
While it appears that Gou will soon resign as Foxconn chairman, he hopes to remain involved in larger strategic decisions.

Gou, 69, founded Foxconn in Taiwan in 1974. The company has grown to become the world's largest electronics manufacturer, assembling well-known products ranging from iPhones and iPads to the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4.

Gou also confirmed that Foxconn will soon begin iPhone production in India, although he did not elaborate on the plans. Last week, a report claimed that Foxconn will begin production of the iPhone X in India this July. Foxconn rival Wistron already assembles older models like the iPhone SE and iPhone 7 in India.

Last week, Apple announced that Foxconn and over two dozen other companies in it supply chain have committed to using 100 percent renewable energy when manufacturing Apple products.

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Foxconn to Begin Production on iPhone X in India This July

Foxconn is set to begin production of the iPhone X in India this July, according to a report by The Economic Times. Production will take place at Foxconn's Chennai plant in eastern India.


According to an official with knowledge of the company's plans, Foxconn hopes to step up production capacity and "diversify to even higher models going forward." Today's report sees Foxconn's plans to move some of its production outside of China begin to take shape, following the manufacturer's trial production of the iPhone X earlier this month.

News about Foxconn's plans to produce high-end iPhones in India emerged late last year. According to a Reuters report, Foxconn invested $356 million to expand an existing plant and take on the new iPhone production, creating as many as 25,000 jobs in the process.

Foxconn has been considering expanding its production plants in India as a way to diversify its supply chain away from China, where most of the Taiwan-based firm's facilities currently reside. Apple manufactures most of its iPhones through Foxconn, but the latter's growing India base provides security in the face of Apple's vulnerability to rising U.S.-China tensions over trade and technology.

Previously, Apple partnered with Wistron to produce iPhones in India, including the iPhone SE and iPhone 6s. When building iPhones in India, Apple is able to avoid import duties placed on imported smartphones and their components. More production in the country also helps Apple meet India's 30 percent local sourcing requirement that would allow Apple to open its own local retail stores.

Production of the iPhone X family in India appears to be part of Apple's revamped India strategy, which also includes better and longer-lasting retail deals with higher sales targets, the opening of official Apple retail stores in India, "overhauling" the company's relationship with independent retailers, and improving apps and services "aimed more closely at Indians." Due to the high price of iPhones in India, and other reasons, Apple has continually struggled in the country, leading to the new strategy.

Related Roundup: iPhone X
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iPhone Assembler Foxconn and Other Suppliers Pledge to Use 100% Renewable Energy for Apple Production

Apple today announced it has nearly doubled the number of suppliers that have committed to run their Apple-specific production on 100 percent renewable energy, bringing the total number to 44.


The list of newly committed suppliers includes, among others, Gorilla Glass maker Corning, Face ID module provider Finisar, A-series chipmaker TSMC, Apple Watch manufacturer Quanta Computer, AirPods assembler Luxshare, and iPhone assemblers Foxconn, Pegatron, and Wistron.

Apple now expects to add five gigawatts of renewable energy to its supply chain by 2020, exceeding its goal of four gigawatts in that timeframe.

Apple says that manufacturing makes up 74 percent of its carbon footprint. To address this, Apple and its suppliers have invested in or procured a mix of clean energy technology, including wind and solar. Apple has also further expanded its supplier education and support initiatives.

Apple also announced that it has allocated all of its $2.5 billion in green bonds, the largest amount of any U.S. corporation. Through this, the company says it has contributed to 40 environmental initiatives around the world, including projects Apple has created to cover its entire electricity load.

Apple's Green Bonds also support environmental research and innovation. Projects include solar rooftops in Japan, an aquifer to conserve water in Oregon, and the creation of a custom alloy made of 100 percent recycled aluminum that is now found in the latest MacBook Air and Mac mini.

A year ago, Apple announced that its global facilities, including retail stores, offices, and data centers, are now powered with 100 percent renewable energy.


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Apple Partner Foxconn Nears Trial Production of Latest iPhones in India

iPhone assembler Foxconn is close to trialing production of Apple's latest smartphones in India, according to a new report out today from Bloomberg.

The trial run of the iPhone X range of devices would come before Foxconn starts full-scale assembly at its factory outside the southern city of Chennai, the people said, asking not to be identified as the plans are private. Wistron Corp. already produces older models, such as the iPhone 6s, iPhone SE and iPhone 7, at a plant in Bangalore.
Foxconn has been considering expanding its production plants in India as a way to diversify its supply chain away from China, where most of the Taiwan-based firm's facilities currently reside. Apple currently manufactures most of its iPhones through Foxconn, but the latter's growing India base provides security in the face of Apple's vulnerability to rising U.S.-China tensions over trade and technology.

Manufacturing iPhones in India could also help Apple lower prices by allowing it to avoid a tariff that adds 20 percent to devices imported from China. It could also help Apple meet India's 30 percent local sourcing requirement that would allow the company to open its own retail stores in the country.

Apple's market share in the country dropped to about one percent in 2018, from about two percent the previous year, as the phones' higher prices deter customers. Consumers in India bought more than 140 million smartphones last year but just 1.7 million of those were sold by Apple, with users favoring cheaper homegrown models from the likes of Xiaomi.

Late last year it was reported that Foxconn would invest around $356 million to expand its facilities in India to begin assembling Apple's high-end iPhones.

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Foxconn’s Wisconsin Site Will No Longer Be a Factory for Smartphone Displays, Instead Focusing on R&D

Foxconn is once again changing plans for its upcoming Wisconsin-based plant in the United States, according to a new report out today by Reuters. Originally set to produce large television displays, and then small to medium displays for smartphones, the location will now pivot to become largely focused on research and development.


Foxconn intends to hire "mostly engineers and researchers" instead of manufacturing workers at the Wisconsin plant. The plans to build smartphone displays, for companies like Apple, have either been greatly scaled back or shelved completely. This information comes from Louis Woo, assistant to Foxconn CEO Terry Gou.

Although the company has yet to formally announce this pivot, Woo says that Foxconn is "not building a factory" in Wisconsin at this point. According to Woo, the steep cost of making advanced screens for TV sets and other devices in the United States led to the decision.

Instead, Woo notes that Foxconn's more profitable solution is to make LCD panels in greater China and Japan, ship them to Mexico for final assembly, and import the finished products to the United States.
Rather than a focus on LCD manufacturing, Foxconn wants to create a “technology hub” in Wisconsin that would largely consist of research facilities along with packaging and assembly operations, Woo said. It would also produce specialized tech products for industrial, healthcare, and professional applications, he added.

“In Wisconsin we’re not building a factory. You can’t use a factory to view our Wisconsin investment,” Woo said.
The Wisconsin project was announced at the White House in 2017, and was used as an example by the Trump administration of a foreign company extending its manufacturing business into the United States. Now, Woo says that three-quarters of the Wisconsin plant will be staffed by people in R&D and design fields, or "knowledge" positions, rather than blue collar manufacturing jobs.

At the time, Foxconn said it would grow to employ as many as 13,000 workers at the site. In recent weeks, the company confirmed it had slowed its pace of hiring, down to about 5,200 people by the end of 2020. Now, a source within the company claims that figure is closer to 1,000 workers to start off. It's unclear if Foxconn still plans to grow to the full 13,000 workforce, and if so when that will happen.

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iPhone Assembler Foxconn Looks to India to Diversify Supply Chain Away From China

A larger portion of the world's iPhones could one day be manufactured in India, if a new report by the Wall Street Journal proves accurate.

According to Tuesday's report, Apple's main iPhone assembler Foxconn is considering building production plants in India as a way to diversify its supply chain away from China, where most of the Taiwan-based firm's facilities currently reside.

Executives at Foxconn, a contract manufacturer that assembles a large portion of the world’s iPhones in China, are studying whether to include an India project in budget plans, one of the people said. Senior executives, possibly including Chairman Terry Gou, plan to visit India after next month’s Lunar New Year to discuss plans, the people familiar said.
Apple currently manufactures most of its iPhones through Foxconn, but the latter's potential new project in India points to Apple's vulnerability to rising U.S.-China tensions over trade and technology. Both Apple and Foxconn declined to comment on today's report, but it is thought that manufacturing iPhones in India could help Apple lower prices by allowing it to avoid a tariff that adds 20 percent to devices imported from China.

Foxconn already has plants in India, and late last year it was reported that the firm would invest around $356 million to expand its facilities there to begin assembling Apple's high-end iPhones. Wistron assembles iPhone SE and iPhone 6s models in India exclusively for the Indian market, but the December report didn't say whether the high-end iPhones assembled by Foxconn would be sold in the country or elsewhere in the world.

Early last year, Apple revamped its India strategy in order to stay afloat in the country's smartphone market. This strategy includes better and longer-lasting retail deals with higher sales targets, the debut of official Apple retail stores in India, and an overhaul of the company's relationship with independent retailers.

Just one in four Indians own a smartphone, providing Apple with an opportunity to sell iPhones to millions of new customers in the country. However, Apple is said to have seen little success so far, with Apple's market share in the country dropping to about one percent in 2018, from about two percent the previous year.

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Foxconn Cut 50,000 Contract Workers Months Ahead of Schedule Due to Poor iPhone Demand

Apple supplier Foxconn has let go around 50,000 contract workers at its iPhone factory in Zhengzhou, China, with the first cuts happening in October 2018. As one source with knowledge of Foxconn's plans told Nikkei, the scale of the cuts is not what stands out, but the fact that it's significantly earlier than previous years.

"It's quite different this year to ask assembly line workers to leave before the year-end," the source stated. Foxconn typically renews workers' contracts every month from August until January, at which point the workforce is scaled back for slow iPhone production season. This year, those cuts came as much as three months early.


The same is true for other Apple suppliers according to today's report, with Pegatron canceling monthly labor contracts last November. One source said that Pegatron's cuts "happened sooner than in the past because of poor demand," referring to the iPhone.

Even smaller companies in Apple's supply chain reportedly cut down on their workforce, with one unnamed component supplier based in Shenzhen asking 4,000 workers to take an extended vacation from October to March. On March 1, the company will decide whether or not to lay the workers off.

For Foxconn, the company is preparing for restructuring throughout the company, merging business units that make iPads and MacBooks with the division making Dell and Acer computers. This means "steep cuts" to management, human resources, administrations, accounting, and utility support jobs, totaling 100,000 jobs removed by the end of 2018 and costs cut by $2.96 billion in 2019.

Apple in late December told its suppliers to cut production on new iPhones by 10 percent over the next three months, coming on the back of reports about weak iPhone sales during the holiday quarter. In early January, Apple CEO Tim Cook called reports claiming the iPhone XR was a flop "bologna," stating the device has been the most popular iPhone "every single day" since it launched.

Amid all of this, many Apple suppliers cut their 2019 sales forecasts, including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and Nidec. Specifically for the China market, these suppliers noted an "extraordinary" drop in demand for high-end smartphones.

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Apple Partnering With Foxconn to Build High-End iPhone Models in India Next Year

Following the iPhone SE and iPhone 6s, Apple will begin assembling its high-end iPhones in India sometime in 2019, according to a new report today by Reuters. Instead of Wistron, Foxconn will build the high-end iPhones, and these models are said to be the most expensive flagship devices offered by Apple, including the iPhone X family.


Local sources state that the work will occur in Foxconn's plant in Sriperumbudur town in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Foxconn will reportedly invest 25 billion Indian rupees ($356 million) to expand the plant, part of which will be focused on the production of the flagship iPhones in India. The investment is estimated to create as many as 25,000 jobs. The report doesn't say whether these high-end iPhones will be sold in the Indian market or elsewhere in the world.

Earlier this year, Apple revamped its India strategy in order to stay afloat in the country's smartphone market. This revamped strategy includes better and longer-lasting retail deals with higher sales targets, the debut of official Apple retail stores in India, an overhaul of the company's relationship with independent retailers, and improving apps and services for local users. This is said to include a new version of Apple Maps aimed at Indian users to launch by 2020.

The expansion of high-end iPhone assembly outside of China could also be an attempt by Apple to "limit the impact" of a trade war between the United States and China:
For Apple, widening assembly beyond China is critical to mitigate the risks of the Sino-U.S. trade war. Foxconn, the world’s biggest electronics contract manufacturer, is considering setting up a factory in Vietnam, Vietnamese state media reported this month. If that goes ahead, it will be one of the biggest recent steps by a major company to secure an additional production base outside of China.

Foxconn has previously admitted the China-U.S. trade spat was its biggest challenge and that its senior executives were making plans to counter the impact. “Widening iPhone manufacturing in India through Foxconn will allow Apple to hedge the risk of any new U.S. trade policies,” said Navkendar Singh, an associate research director at International Data Corporation.
Still, the company has struggled in the country due to the high price of its iPhones. Just last week, The Wall Street Journal published a report about Apple's iPhone sales in India. According to the paper, Apple has had "little success so far" in terms of growth in India, due to the price-sensitive market that has more than 75 percent of smartphones priced below $250.

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