Rumors say touch panel issues could delay iPhone 5

Sep 23, 2011
Tech

At this point, we have it on pretty good authority that Apple is going to announce the next iPhone or iPhones in October, likely Oct. 4. But that doesn’t tell us when it might be selling them. A new report from DigiTimes suggests that troubles with the touch panel on the iPhone 5 might delay its […]

At this point, we have it on pretty good authority that Apple is going to announce the next iPhone or iPhones in October, likely Oct. 4. But that doesn’t tell us when it might be selling them.

A new report from DigiTimes suggests that troubles with the touch panel on the iPhone 5 might delay its availability in the next few months, which might be tough on Apple if it continues with the (apparent) plan of announcing the next iPhone iteration in the next few weeks. DigiTimes says that some of the iPhone 5 displays, produced by Wintek, are seeing something called a “delayed bubble” appear in them after manufacturing. It’s a trouble with the laminating process, according to that story:

The defect, ‘delayed bubble’, is difficult to avoid during panel production, particularly when the defect is not detected during the process of laminating touch panels, and only later found during assembly, the sources said. Since the manufacturing process of touch panels used in iPhone 5 is of the same as that for iPhone 4, Wintek is expected to remedy the defect quickly, the sources indicated.

For its part, Wintek said it is on point with delivering all its products and didn’t comment on any problems. As DigiTimes points out, it shouldn’t be too hard for Wintek to fix the problem with its displays. The question is how many displays already created got through with the defect. If the number is high, it could mean that a chunk of Apple’s initial shipment won’t be ready for primetime come October.

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Wintek is only responsible for a portion of iPhone displays, something like 20 to 25 percent, according to TechCrunch. The rest are fielded by other component manufacturers, specifically TPK Holding and Chimei Innolux, who handle the remaining 75 to 80 percent or so. And the ‘delayed bubble’ defect seems like it’s small fries in terms of manufacturing problems.

But the trouble is that Apple is expected to need a lot of devices for the fall launch, especially going into the holiday season. Apple reportedly ordered 26 million iPhone 5s for the coming quarter, and even losing a fraction of Wintek’s 20 percent could put a dent into those supplies.

Apple has had trouble meeting product demand in the past, which probably accounts for the massive iPhone order it’s rumored to be putting out. Especially with this being Tim Cook’s first major product launch as CEO and with investors’ eyes laser-focused on how well Apple does, the company will be hoping for a smooth October.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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