Apple iPhone X reported facing delays due to 3D sensors

Apple Inc is facing production delays to its top-of-the-line iPhone X due to problems with the 3D sensor manufacturing process, according to a series of news reports. 

Makers of the components, used in facial recognition, are struggling to reach adequate production levels, Japan’s Nikkei newspaper reported Sept 26, citing unidentified people with knowledge of the process. The delay relates to the assembly of equipment used to project the 30,000 infrared dots onto a user’s face to map its characteristics, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, also citing unidentified people. 

Assembly of the dot projector is carried out by LG Innotek Co and Sharp Corp, the Journal reported, adding that one person said the process is now running smoothly. The delays may have been a contributing factor in a decision by Apple to ask suppliers to withhold some shipments for iPhone X devices, as reported by Digitimes on Sept 25. The suppliers were requested to send just 40% of the parts initially ordered, the Taipei-based publication wrote, citing unidentified Taiwan-based suppliers. 

Apple had already faced delays due to the new display technology, which is made of organic light-emitting diodes. OLED panels are made by just a handful of factories largely owned by Samsung Display Co Ltd, making it harder to supply the technology in adequate quantities, people familiar with the issues told Bloomberg in April. 

Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller declined to comment. 

The 3D scanner is the iPhone X’s flagship innovation, allowing the handset to be unlocked just by glancing at it rather than requiring a fingerprint or unlock code. Along with a wider, sharper screen, it’s a key differentiator from the next model down, the iPhone 8, which was announced concurrently earlier this month. 

Apple has staggered the delivery of the iPhone X, which will become available Nov 3, six weeks after the lower-specification iPhone 8 went on sale. While Apple has said that it took the delayed release into account when forecasting its revenue for the three months through September, many analysts have assumed that demand for the top-of-the-range handset would carry over into the December quarter. 

While any pent-up demand for the iPhone X would be a “positive trend for Apple, any serious production delays could hurt Apple’s fiscal first quarter and even second quarter sales growth,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Boyoung Kim wrote in a note Wednesday. 

Analysts on average forecast Apple’s revenue to increase 11% in the first fiscal quarter to US$86.9bil (RM367.63bil). 

Apple’s shares were up less than 1% to US$154.03 (RM651.62) at 1.13pm on Sept 27. They have risen 33% this year, fuelled in large part by expectations for the 10th anniversary iPhone. — Bloomberg