iPhone City

This is Where the New Iphone Factories Are Being Built – in India Instead of China

The U.S. tech company and its contract manufacturers are building rows and rows of giant iPhone factories in India. This is shown by new satellite images from LiveEO. This is not good news for the Chinese plant in Zhengzhou, which has been battered by Xi Jinping’s Corona policy.

“Economy from above” is a collaboration between WirtschaftsWoche and LiveEO. This is a translation of the original article written in German by “Thomas Stölzel“. Access the original article here.

Employees of the world’s largest iPhone factory in Zhengzhou engage in a street fight with Chinese police officers. Due to the strict zero-covid policy of the regime in Beijing, many are quarantined and apparently have to sleep in the factory, sometimes under inhumane conditions. The unrest could once again greatly accelerate Apple’s slow withdrawal from China in the coming months.

The latest satellite images from LiveEO now show with how much vigor the Californian company is already having one iPhone factory after another built up in India in order to make itself independent of the People’s Republic as quickly as possible.

In addition to the uncertainty brought about by the ironclad Corona policy of China’s ruler Xi Jinping, the growing rift between China and the USA is another driver. The government in Washington, for example, banned the sale of Chinese Huawei smartphones in the U.S. just a few days ago.

India’s New Iphone Factories

india new iphone factories
Source: Own research Graphic: Konstantin Megas

The main victim of the slow separation of Apple and China is likely to be the gigantic factory that the Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn has been building in the south of Zhengzhou since 2010. Around 200,000 people are now employed there. The plant – flippantly called iPhone City – even has its own research and university facilities.

Around 70 percent of all iPhones come from here. The news agency Reuters reported this week that production in November was more than 30 percent below plan due to the Corona quarantine and the associated protests. This is especially bitter for the US company’s Christmas business. The mega-factory can produce around 500,000 units in just one day.

  • Foxconn Factory Site 2009
  • Foxconn Factory Site 2010
  • Foxconn Factory Site 2013
  • Foxconn Factory Site 2015
  • Foxconn Factory Site 2017
  • Foxconn Factory Site 2022

Images: LiveEO/Maxar, LiveEO/SPOT

For a few years now, however, Apple has also been producing the iPhone in India, which unlike China is a democracy – the largest in the world. And here, in addition to Foxconn, Taiwanese contract manufacturers Wistron and Pegatron have recently built new factories for the device. In addition, the Indian conglomerate Tata wants to get into iPhone final assembly, India’s government announced a few days ago. The latter is already an Apple supplier with its subsidiary Tata Electronics.

Two of the new plants built in India are located in the suburbs of the southeast Indian metropolis of Chennai. Nearly nine million people now live in this metropolitan area. For example, in the small town of Sunguvarchatram, where Foxconn has been building iPhones since 2019. Three factory buildings and a few office buildings existed here back in 2009, when Apple was still deeply rooted in China. Satellite images show that. But since 2019, Foxconn has built three additional factories here. And three more are currently under construction.

  • Apple iPhones India Foxconn 2018
  • Apple iPhones India Foxconn 2020
  • Apple iPhones India Foxconn 2021
  • Apple iPhones India Foxconn 2022

Images: LiveEO/Maxar, LiveEO/Pleiades.

Around 17,000 employees assemble Apple’s iPhones at this location. Until now, these were mainly older models. Since the fall, however, they have also been building the new iPhone 14 here, an unmistakable signal of how much Apple is currently pulling out of China.

Foxconn has another factory six kilometers to the east. There, around the suburbs of Sunguvarchatram and Sriperumbudur, many other international companies have already set up their plants. Among them are the carmakers Hyundai and Renault-Nissan.

However, there are also problems at Foxconn’s Indian iPhone factory from time to time. At the end of 2021, for example, it made headlines because the mostly female employees were housed under hygienically questionable conditions. The factory had to close for days due to food poisoning. At the time, Apple placed the factory under a kind of probation.

This is probably one of the reasons why the U.S. company prefers to rely on many different contract manufacturers in India instead of depending primarily on Foxconn. The latest on the scene is the Taiwanese company Pegatron, which has built a large iPhone plant south of the Chennai metropolis. Pegatron already assembles devices for Apple in China and, according to media reports, now generates about half of its sales with technology from the Californians.

  • Apple iPhones India Pegatron 2018
  • Apple iPhones India Pegatron 2019
  • Apple iPhones India Pegatron 2020
  • Apple iPhones India Pegatron 2021
  • Apple iPhones India Pegatron 2022

Images: LiveEO/Maxar, LiveEO/Pleiades.

Satellite images show initial work on the foundation of the large factory in early 2019. By mid-2020, the first construction phase was in place. In April of this year, the new factory was ready, at least on the outside. Apple is now also having the new iPhone 14 manufactured here at Pegatron. Initially, the devices built in India were primarily intended for the Indian market. Now, however, they are to be increasingly exported internationally.

The U.S. bank J.P. Morgan expects 25 percent of Apple’s global production to come from India as early as 2025. Currently, the figure is five percent.

Another Apple producer in India is Wistron. The Taiwanese company has built its plant near the city of Bangalore. Now it is doubling capacity there, as recent satellite images show. A second factory is being built, a twin of the first. According to media reports, the government in New Delhi is currently luring iPhone manufacturers with high subsidies.

  • Apple iPhones India Wistron 2018
  • Apple iPhones India Wistron 2021
  • Apple iPhones India Wistron 2022

Images: LiveEO/Maxar, LiveEO/SPOT

The Wistron factory, whose site in 2018 still consisted of agricultural fields, has so far mainly produced simple basic models such as the iPhone SE. Assembling iPhones is considered a challenge; the quality and time requirements of the US corporation are strict.

And there has also been trouble at this site in the past. At the end of 2020, employees had been underpaid for four months under Indian law. Unrest among employees brought manufacturing to a halt for three months. Property damage of reportedly $60 million was caused to the factory and around it. In this case, too, Apple imposed a kind of suspended sentence on the operator.

However, this seems to have been settled, because Wistron is currently negotiating with the Indian industrial conglomerate Tata to set up another iPhone production facility. This is to be five times as large as Wistron’s current plant in India.

This factory will be built south of Bangalore, near the suburb of Hosur. Nearby, Tata Electronics already has a new plant producing housing parts for iPhones. Tata, which also makes steel and cars, among other things, would then be the first truly Indian contract manufacturer for Apple’s iPhone. India’s Telecommunications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had announced in mid-November that this new site near Hosur alone would employ around 60,000 people.

Tata Electronics Factory
Tata Electronics Factory for iPhone cases, near Hosur, Karnataka State, India.
15.04.2022: A huge iPhone factory employing 60,000 people is to be built near this factory.
Image: LiveEO/Pleiades

Competitor Foxconn plans to grow from the current 17,000 employees in its Indian iPhone factory to 70,000 in the next two years.

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