It’s been almost three weeks since the iPhone 5 went on sale here in the US, and it’s practically impossible to find the handset. Apple’s website still shows shipping time estimates of 3-4 weeks, and both Verizon and AT&T show the phone won’t be available until November.

On the surface, it seems that Apple is once again a victim of its own success: it simply can’t make iPhones fast enough to meet demand. But apparently there’s more to it than that. Word is that the phone’s aluminum backing has been a major factor in the supply constraints…

Bloomberg reports:

“Apple Inc.’s iPhone 5 supply shortfall is being exacerbated by a quality-control crackdown at Foxconn Technology Group that’s designed to cut the number of devices shipped with nicks and scratches, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The scrapes, which sparked complaints with the iPhone’s debut last month, are due to Apple’s decision to use a type of aluminum that helps make the smartphone thinner and lighter. Senior Apple managers told executives at Foxconn near the end of September to tighten production standards, said the person, who asked not to be named because the matter was private.”

Last week, we reported that a number of Foxconn employees had gone on strike due to this so-called “quality control crackdown” in iPhone 5 production. As many as 4,000 workers reportedly walked off the job in protest of the company’s difficult job requests.

The tightened quality standards has also resulted in a parts shortage, with fewer metal backings passing inspection due to stray scratches. And this has added to the pressure on assembly line workers, who have to be careful not to corrupt the limited supply.

“For those working on assembly lines with enough anodized aluminum housings for production, the pressure has intensified, because the iPhone 5 is more delicate and easier to scratch during the assembly process, said five factory workers interviewed by Bloomberg News outside the Zhengzhou plant. They spoke on condition that their full names not be used.”

It’ll be interesting to see how Apple remedies this issue with the aluminum backings in the coming months, as the iPhone 5 is expected to be available in more than 100 countries by December. Perhaps they should have stuck with the easier-to-make glass backings.

What do you think?

  • Apanama

    Sounds like a bad decision on apple side. If it is easily scratch in the production line, what about at homes, offices and in the pockets?

    • rohta

      Exactly. This anodized aluminum finish seems to be too fragile to be used in a device that will go anywhere.
      All workers on assembly lines uses gloves, so, if even being handled by people using gloves and under a controlled industrial environment, this new aluminum backing scratches and nicks, imagine in outside world, against nails, keys, rings, dust, etc….
      And this is even more strange, knowing that the original iPhone almost had plastic screen, but was decided to use glass, because it is more scratch resistant. Now, this back panel seems to be even easier to scratch than plastic?

      • “anodized” fancy word for painted…lolooololloooloolo

      • Nope, they are not even similar

  • thedarkknight80

    I will wait and wait and wait until i buy one, until 6.01 OS is out .

    Nooooo rush .

  • Kurt

    scratches aren’t a problem of the aluminum, its a problem on the paint (or both) but the paint is the first layer of protection that is failing

    let’s see how many thumbs down i’m gonna get for this one. oh boy…

    • I didnt thumb down but why are you so anti-apple? o.O

      • Kurt

        im not anti-apple to be honest. so im definitely not ‘so anti-apple’ but i am quite annoyed that the iphone is the same thing since 2007. i want changes in the design. i’m an artist, i can’t stand the same things visually speaking. in technology things move fast…so something from just a few years ago seems very dated, and the iphone is the worst of the worst. looking at the front of a black iphone i see it as a 2007 design. i want to get the ipad 4, but i may not if it looks the same as the ipad 3, which looks exactly as the ipad 2, and nearly identical to the ipad 1. but there is one more near requirement i have, and thats i need a change to iOS. we can have 7 years of the same thing, can we? theming doesnt cut it for me. i like change in my technology.

        but i am anti steve jobs. he was a horrible human being and he is treated as if he was a saint. he never gave money to charity. he hoarded what he had and more importantly what apple had. btw, i give 25% of my income each month away. i get no tax benefit. i only say that because im a hypocrite.

      • Sab803

        I’ll agree with you. Apple has a family of iPods and not iPhones.

    • I am not going to give you a thumbs down but Will say that you got it completely wrong . The black colour is anodised aluminium and not paint. It’s because of scratch that aluminium is visible and not because some paint is coming off . Now hoping you don’t give me a thumbs down for telling this

      • Kurt

        oh…ahh, i stand corrected. i forgot about it being anodized. you’re right, thank you thank you~

        btw, i dont typically give thumbs down, often even when being trolled

      • mine had nicks and scratches out of box. its not holding up to good so far. have a zagg full body on mine including sides.

      • Kurt

        so basically, you need to put plastic all around it to protect it. then why do people think iPhone is so great because of the metal/glass casing? why put down other phones for using plastic (most people use a plastic case)? not sure if fanboys think that deep but.

        i feel bad for you that you bought it brand new and it looks used already. how bad are the scratches? is the zagg full body the clear protective cover like a screen protector? I had one and it was made really well.

  • Seriously? November? Damn I ordered mine two weeks ago.

    • Placed my order last week. I’m wondering, are we all lumped together waiting for the next batch, or are there smaller batches coming out in the meantime? That is, is 3-4 weeks valid for everyone waiting, or just those who place an order today?

  • nice to change now. my iphone5 came with scratches out of the box. went back to apple they told me good luck getting another phone. treat mine like im holding a baby and it still has scratches all around bezel. not very happy about how its holding up so far

    • was your phone the black version? does the white version still get noticeable scratches ?

  • @dongiuj

    Funny isn’t it how Phil Schiller described the marks on the phone as “normal”, for a brand new product straight out of the box. Now what is being said. And people still stand up for Apple by making excuses for them.
    If this is the way apple is going then I think i can safely say that this will be my last iphone. The upgrade from my 3G-4G was kind of good but from my 4G-5 is a total let down. I had my fun with siri for the first 2 days but now I’m not in the slightest impressed with it.

    • Kurt

      imagine if the galaxy SIII came with scratches and wifi problems, data problems maps problems…just sit and think for a min, what would these isheep say? would they also say, hey, its ok, no problem

      • @dongiuj


  • lol apple is repainting all the phones… lol @ paint… silly should have just used darkened metal alloy,..

    • You have no idea what you are talking about

      • Kurt

        you’re upside down…what do you know

      • Oh, the wit!

      • Kurt

        @facebook-1643533809:disqus why did you delete the comment?

  • The issue isn’t that it’s aluminium, it’s that they used crappy decorative anodizing rather than hard anodizing

  • Jv

    My Iphone got a lot of scratches from my pocket. I rather have the phone a little heavier than lighter.