Apple leaks: increasingly they are made in China

If there is one word that is often used to describe Apple it is “secretive.” The Cupertino, California firm is legendary for its corporate tight lips. Increasingly, however, there are few secrets left when it comes to Apple products. A number of insiders are blaming Apple’s extensive supply chain and companies outside the US.

“Apple’s security practices are targeted at making sure U.S. employees don’t leak stuff, but everything comes out of China now,” an unnamed employee of the iPhone maker told Ars Technica Monday. This inability to ensure suppliers outside the U.S. share the same regard for product secrecy has led Apple to tighten the screws on employees at home – sometimes with questionable results.

One Apple employee told Ars Technica that the company’s secrecy “is really outdated”. Since manufacturing is all done overseas, “it may be hard to surprise people over anything in the future”, said another employee. In just October, we’ve written stories about leaked iPad mini case photos, leaked battery specs, leaked iPad mini pricing and much, much more.

Probably one of the most public slip-ups of Apple security happened last year when an employee “lost” an iPhone 4 prototype and negotiations for its return were splashed all over tech news sites. As a result, only a few people are allowed to take new products off the Apple campus.

One employee called the limitation “really disturbing” since the restriction prevents the testing that would give engineers confidence that their products will operate correctly when in the hands of consumers.

Another result of lack of effective security surrounding Apple products, the company has shrunken the lead time Apple Store employees have to learn about new software, according to the publication.

In the past, store employees would get a week head-start to learn the ins-and-outs of new iOS or OSX software, enabling them to intelligently answer questions. Now Apple retail employees get as little as 12 hours before new software is sold to the public.

The report paints a picture of Apple as the victim of its own far-flung supply-chain. In order to squeeze out the kind of profit margins that Wall Street has learned to expect from the iPhone maker, Apple must use overseas assembly and manufacturing, employees of which do not share the excitement over an upcoming product they worked hard to design.

But by turning events such as Tuesday’s iPad unveiling into simply a fait accompli, the company risks killing the golden goose.

Consumers pay more for Apple products largely for their mystique of uniqueness, of being part of a select group. However, if every detail about an unannounced product is already known, little separates an Apple device from any other product on a retailer’s shelves.

What do you think? Are leaks threatening to sink Apple?