Where are Apple's iPhone, iPads and Macs made? And why don't they assemble their products in the US?
In early 2016, there's was a lot of tech-press buzz around the then US presidential candidate Donald Trump's eye-catching vow to force Apple to make its computers in the US. (In fairness it's not just Republicans who go in for this kind of thing, even if other politicians might adopt a more diplomatic approach. Less than three years ago Apple was praised by Barack Obama for agreeing to start making more of its Macs domestically.)
Aside from raising questions regarding Mr Trump's motives and credentials, this also made a lot of people curious about the actual location of Apple's manufacturing and assembly plants. How much of an iPad, for example, is actually made in the United States? And how many of the components within your average Apple devices are produced under the company's own brand? Who really makes the iPhone? How is the iPhone made?
Those are just some of the questions we'll be answering in this article, as we explore the supply chain for a Mac, iPhone or iPad and look at the various places each of these products is designed, built and assembled - and why. Hopefully you, and Donald Trump, will find the answers illuminating.
Updated 24 November: Now that Donald Trump is the President of the United States, he has spoken directly to Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, to discuss bringing the manufacturing back to the USA. Trump is looking to provide 'very large tax cuts for corporations'. As reported by our US colleagues at Macworld the Mac Pro is already assembled in the USA, but that is also the least-selling product that Apple make. We don't see Apple moving all its manufacturing to the USA, but might have to move a part of it during Trump's presidential reign.
Where are Apple products made: Apple, Foxconn and the supply chain
Before diving into where the origins of individual parts within Apple products, we have to look at the overarching picture: Apple's supply chain, which has come under some scrutiny recently from a report by Amnesty International and Afrewatch that outlines child labour fuelling the manufacturing process of smartphone batteries found in Apple's products.
The biggest difference Apple has from other manufacturers is that it sources its materials and components from other manufacturers that operate throughout the globe. For example, its displays are mainly made in Japan by Japan Display and Sharp, and some are still made in South Korea by LG Display; whilst the Touch ID sensor found in its recent iPad and iPhone models are made in Taiwan by TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) and Xintec. In fact, Apple's list of suppliers stretches to more than 200 various suppliers located throughout the world.
This brings up a lot of interesting facts about Apple's supply chain, where it has to manage a huge number of suppliers and funnel their work into a single device. This is what makes Apple a fascinating company to research and understand. In order for it to operate economically, it has to source parts from various different countries and continents, manufacture and assemble the parts in another, have warehouses located around the world to supply enough devices for the whole world and finally be able to distribute it to its customers at a reliable speed.
Whilst thinking about the complex supply chain, it's interesting to work out why and how parts from around the world come together in perfect harmony to create one of the most iconic brands of our time.
Where are Apple products made: Which companies make the iPhone - and where?
Let's dive into the individual parts that make up an Apple device. More specifically, let's look at Apple's iPhone line. Here's a breakdown of the components that go into the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 6:
- Accelerometer: Bosch in Germany. Invensense in the United States.
- Audio Chipsets and Codec: Cirrus Logic in the United States (outsourced for manufacturing).
- Baseband processor: Qualcomm in the United States (outsourced for manufacturing).
- Batteries: Samsung in South Korea. Huizhou Desay Battery in China.
- Cameras: Sony in Japan. OmniVision in the United States produces the front-facing FaceTime camera chip but subcontracts TMSC (in Taiwan) for manufacturing.
- Chipsets and Processors: Samsung in South Korea and TSMC in Taiwan. Alongside their partner GlobalFoundries in the United States.
- Controller Chips: PMC Sierra and Broadcom Corp in the United States (outsourced for manufacturing).
- Display: Japan Display and Sharp in Japan. LG Display in South Korea.
- DRAM: TSMC in Taiwan. SK Hynix in South Korea.
- eCompass: Alps Electric in Japan.
- Fingerprint sensor authentication: Authentec makes it in China but outsources it to Taiwan for manufacturing.
- Flash memory: Toshiba in Japan and Samsung in South Korea.
- Gyroscope: STMicroelectronics in France and Italy.
- Inductor coils (audio): TDK in Japan.
- Main Chassis Assembly: Foxconn and Pegatron in China.
- Mixed-signal chips (such as NFC): NXP in Netherlands.
- Plastic Constructions (for the iPhone 5c): Hi-P and Green Point in Singapore.
- Radio Frequency Modules: Win Semiconductors (module manufacturers Avago and RF Micro Devices) in Taiwan. Avago technologies and TriQuint Semiconductor in the United States. Qualcomm in the United States for LTE connectivity.
- Screen and Glass (for the display): Corning (Gorilla Glass) in the United States. GT Advanced Technologies produces the sapphire crystals in the screens.
- Semiconductors: Texas Instruments, Fairchild and Maxim Integrated in the United States.
- Touch ID sensor: TSMC and Xintec in Taiwan.
- Touchscreen Controller: Broadcom in the United States (outsourced for manufacturing).
- Transmitter and Amplification Modules: Skyworks and Qorvo in the United States (outsourced for manufacturing).
As we're able to see, Apple's manufacturing and outsourcing of products is very diverse and sprawls across numerous countries around the world. This goes without mentioning a lot of the other suppliers and manufacturers that are within the supply chain of some of the companies listed above!
It should be noted that the design, development and marketing work, not to mention the creation of the software, are all done in-house by Apple in the United States. The company remains a huge employer in its home country.
Where are Apple products made: Where is the iPhone made?
And so we return to the original question: Where is an iPhone (or an iPad, or the component parts of any Apple device) made?
The answer is: everywhere. Due to the complex supply chain within each of these companies, the number of countries involved in the manufacturing and even assembly process of Apple's devices is impossibly diverse.
Where are Apple products made: Made in China
The reason Apple sticks "Made in China" on its devices is because the majority of the parts tend to be sourced from China, but they are frequently made elsewhere (in Taiwan, for example). The assembly of Apple's devices is for the most part done in China - which is why we will continue to see "Made in China" despite a lot of these companies, including Apple, creating their designs in countries like the United States.
Looking more closely at the Chinese assembly line, it's also made people question why Apple has chosen to outsource and even assemble its devices outside its domestic territory and choose China as its primary location. The simple answer is: China allows greater flexibility and even has the natural resources to cope with high-demand manufacturing.
Where are Apple products made: How much does an iPhone cost to make?
Finally, we should also look at the cost of manufacturing certain phones (we will quote the figures in US dollars, in order to avoid any currency fluctuation conversions).
According to research firm IHS, the iPhone 6s Plus (Apple's current flagship phone, at the time of writing) costs Apple $236 to manufacture (once manufacturing costs are added), whilst it retails at over three times the price at $749 for the 16GB model. What's even more interesting to note is the extra storage found in the 64GB model costs Apple around $17 extra to make, while it charges its customers an extra $100 for the extra storage space.
In the UK the iPhone 6s Plus 64GB can be found for £599.
Where are Apple products made: Apple vs Samsung
It's interesting to understand the cost of the manufacturing process, as when compared to other manufacturers like Samsung, who make a lot of Apple's internal parts and manufacture a greater percentage of components within their own devices; it costs Samsung more to build the Galaxy S6 Edge 64GB over the Apple iPhone 6 Plus 64GB model. The Galaxy S6 Edge 64GB used to be found for around £500 on Amazon.
This all goes to show how complex and yet how successful Apple is as a logistical engine, keeping down costs and managing a vast and complicated supply chain with links around the globe.
It is known as one of the most talked about brands in the technology space and has an ever-increasing popularity with investors. Apple is quite simply one of the most successful companies of our times, and yet it barely manufactures its own products and still manages to sell them for a higher price, despite often featuring slightly lower hardware specifications.