Apple headquarters (Cupertino, Clifornia, exterior 001)

Unlike the specs-obsessed technology industry which has always been dependent on frequent product refreshes, Apple continues to traditionally update its iPhone annually. Now, some industry peers – such as Sony – warned that the company may be “missing out” by not updating the iPhone twice per year.

Playing on this sentiment, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple is now adding “hundreds of new engineers” and supply-chain managers in China and Taiwan. The company is hiring away these people from various tech firms, including rival HTC, reportedly in order to speed up product development and launch a wider range of devices…

Apple first started tapping engineers in Asia last August, through LinkedIn.

The company apparently reached out individually, among others, to engineers at HTC and its suppliers Inventec and Quanta Computer.

Why is Apple building up teams in Shanghai and Taipei?

According to the report, because additional engineers are needed to work with Asian suppliers on developing components for coming iPhones and iPads. The company apparently plans for “faster and more frequent product launches,” the story has it.

Apple has added several hundred new engineers and operations staff in China over the past two years, with a blitz of hiring that began in mid-2013, people familiar with the matter said.

Apple’s engineers and operations staff in China now exceeds 600 people.

Prior reporting seems to corroborate the WSJ story.

The reliable KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo wrote in a note to clients last summer that Apple was looking to add new Taiwanese suppliers to build iOS devices in 2014, indicating that new form-factor iOS devices could be introduced this year, as suspected.

And let’s not forget that Apple’s been poaching engineers for its main three-building Asian base in Shanghai.

iPhone 6 concept (Federico Ciccarese 004)

According to a VR-Zone report dated August 2013, Apple set up a research and development facility in Taiwan to create future iPhones and was recruiting to build “a new engineering development team in Taiwan to work on the next-generation of iPhone product development,” as per its recruitment emails.

Although core research and development will remain in Cupertino, Apple’s job postings reveal that the new positions in Greater China include working with suppliers on hardware development for touchscreens and cameras, electrical engineering and software quality assurance.

Put together, these stories strongly suggest that Apple is gearing up to add new products to its iOS device lineup this year – hence the need for R&D centers and engineers in Asia.

Under Cook’s leadership, Apple’s already brought as the iPad mini.

This year, the iPhone is expected to come in two flavors: one featuring a 4.7-inch screen and the other a phablet with a screen measuring at least five inches diagonally – and I’m not even mentioning that wearable project, an Apple TV refresh and possibly additional surprise products.

What do you make of all this?