The iPhone 7 could end up being one of the first smartphones to be mostly made by robots. Foxconn, one of Apple’s supplier and a key manufacturer of the iPhone, has just upgraded one of its factories to replace almost 60,000 production line workers with robots.
Foxconn looks to save money
The Chinese manufacturer had employed 110,000 workers at its plant in Kunshan, Jiangsu Province, but after upgrading the facility, only about 50,000 workers now have jobs there. It’s not clear exactly which products are manufactured at the factory, however, so it’s unclear whether the iPhone 7 will indeed be made by robots.
The move is about more than just having the latest technology as Foxconn stands to save a lot of money on payroll in the long term by replacing so many workers with robots. But this is part of a much larger trend as Chinese media outlet reports that Chinese companies have spent $630 million on robots and related manufacturing technology since Apple released the iPhone 6 in 2004.
It’s possible that the iPhone maker’s huge order sizes played a role in the decision to upgrade the factory and others in China. Robots will likely work more efficiently than human workers, so they would enable manufacturers like Foxconn to build even more iPhone 7 handsets even faster than it could build Apple’s previous phones. However, it will be some time before the economic impacts of putting tens of thousands of Chinese out of work are fully felt.
Huge orders for the iPhone 7
Although analysts from multiple firms have warned that the iPhone 7 may not have major must-have upgrades that will trigger a massive upgrade cycle, Apple appears to be expecting a huge cycle anyway. We’ve heard reports that suppliers were told that the company may need up to 78 million of them just this year alone. Although the iPhone 6s cycle was lackluster and less than inspiring, most analysts expect the iPhone 7 cycle to be much better, whether or not there are any exciting new features.
The reason is because the iPhone 6 cycle two years ago was a massive one for Apple because it was the first cycle in which the company increased the size of the display on the iPhone. Because many consumers are on a two-year upgrade plan with their carriers, analysts tend to believe that consumers will upgrade just because they are eligible for an upgrade and not necessarily because they deem any of the features on the iPhone 7 as being exciting enough to warrant a new iPhone purchase.
The latest iPhone 7 rumors
So since Apple will apparently have so many high-tech robots at its disposal to build the iPhone 7, what might it include in the phone? We’re hearing a variety of rumors, most of which seem to point to a form factor that isn’t much different from that of the iPhone 6s.
However, there are some schematics making the rounds of the Web that seem to suggest the next iPhone will be thicker than the iPhone 6s. This would be strange since Apple typically tries to make its products thinner and thinner. The increase in thickness is small enough that the average consumer may not notice it as the schematics show the iPhone 7 at 7.2 millimeters thick, compared to the iPhone 6s’ 7.1 millimeter thickness.
The schematics also seem to back up the rumor that Apple will get rid of the headphone jack and instead use it to include a second speaker grille. 9to5 Mac, which reviewed the schematics, suggests that the most interesting part about them might be a mistake. They appear to show the iPhone 7 Plus with an edge-to-edge display. We’ve been hearing rumors that Apple was working on an iPhone model with an edge-to-edge display for years. Another thing that’s missing from the schematics is the FaceTime camera, and while the website notes that Apple has patented technology to hide a camera behind a smartphone display, there have been no rumors to this effect.