Will Apple’s iPhone 9 be ‘Made in India’?

With more and more of Apple's iPhone supply chain partners setting up shop there, is it possible the next entry-level iPhone will be made in India?

Apple, iOS, iPhone, India, iPhone 11, iPhone SE, iPhone 9, iPhone 8

The morning runes suggest Apple may be preparing to increase the scale of iPhone manufacturing in India; component orders, market speculation and news from supply chain partners combine to suggest just that.

The iPhone 9 unicorn is (almost) here – maybe

Industry watchers expect Apple to very soon replace the iPhone 8 with a new device called, (appropriately enough given the company’s naming conventions) “iPhone 9."

We’ve glanced at the rumors already, but here’s a quick reprise of what we think we know it will have:

  • A13 processor.
  • Touch ID.
  • 64GB and 128GB models.
  • 3GB RAM.
  • U1 chip.
  • LCD display, from 5.4 inches. (Though other reports suggest 4.7 inches).
  • Single-lens camera.
  • Space grey, silver, red.

Don’t forget, rumors are rumors and just because people say things might happen doesn’t mean they will. 

More recently, we learned of Apple plans to commence manufacturing these things in February 2020, following previous claims it intended putting them on sale perhaps as soon as March.

Sure, but what about manufacturing?

Apple already makes iPhones in India, where its partner Wistron has two factories that have been occupied manufacturing iPhone SE and iPhone 6S.

Digitimes now tells us Wistron has opened a third factory, which will also begin making iPhones. Foxconn is also making iPhones in India and Pegatron is looking to place factories there. Smaller Apple partners such as Salcomp are also investing in production facilities in the country.

Given current trade tensions between the Trump administration and China, it makes sense for Apple to diversify its supply chain in order to protect shoppers against unexpected price hikes. The company has been applying a great deal of energy in India for some time, both because it wants to generate new business in India’s rapidly expanding economy and because it really, really wants to diversify its supply chain.

Apple has also been ever so keen to stress that it's looking to make a long-term commitment to the country. “We’re not here for a quarter, or two quarters, or the next year, or the next year,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said on a 2016 visit. “We’re here for a thousand years.”

Jaw-jaw beats war-war

It’s fair to say Apple hit some hurdles. Not only were its products quite expensive in terms of the local economy, but India enforced a number of regulations that made expanding business there difficult. To mitigate these challenges, it appears Apple has engaged with local governments to find a mutually useful compromise.

That’s why news that India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology is exploring a range of initiatives it hopes will encourage big tech firms to set up shop seems so well timed – tax breaks, loan subsidies, infrastructure investment and the creation of special tech industry zones are all being discussed.

In other words, the timing seems pretty good for at least some expansion of Apple’s manufacturing presence in India, even as its iPhone 11 series devices have re-ignited local interest in the company’s products. The iPhone 11 is selling strongly in India with queues of people ready to shop when the device launched.

Apple’s move to improve its current low-end offering (the iPhone 8 is currently the entry-level model) with an iPhone 9 will broaden what it has available. The company already makes the iPhone XR there, reports have claimed, and these devices are apparently exported elsewhere.

Made in India?

With a new model set to go into production in February, news that Apple has asked TSMC to increase production of Apple’s A-series processors is likely not just spurred by strong sales, but also to address what’s coming in FY20 Q3, which is: Even stronger sales as a lower cost model hits the shelves.

If successful (and there's little reason amore-affordable, A13-powered device shouldn't be) the new model is going to require the company to ramp up its manufacturing capacity. And with so many partners investing deeply in manufacturing centers there, it seems possible we’ll see at least some of these new iPhone models designed in California, but Made in India.

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Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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