AWT News Update: December 30, 2016

Some Foxbots showing off to humans...

Some Foxbots showing off to humans...

This will be the final AWT News Update for 2016; be sure to join us again next Tuesday, January 2, 2017 for the first update of the new year! Today we have a few stories that we're sure you'll find fascinating:

  • iPhone 7 production may be cut by 10% soon to avoid a buildup of inventory
  • Think those 4K videos of Apple Campus 2 are impressive? Check out the 1.7 gigapixel mosaic created by SkyIMD if you really want to see a high-resolution photo
  • The robots are taking over at manufacturing plants run by Apple's primary partner, Foxconn

The text version of the podcast can be viewed below. To listen to the podcast here, click the play button on the player below.

Text Version

Hi, this is Steve Sande for Apple World Today, and this is the AWT News Update for December 30, 2016. There was no podcast yesterday, and this will be the last podcast of 2016. Our first podcast of 2017 will come on Tuesday, January 2nd.

With the end of the calendar year comes a flood of posts looking ahead at 2017, both in terms of what is expected to come out from Apple and what we’d like to see. Apple World Today editor Dennis Sellers has already made his predictions, and I will probably try to dust off the crystal ball tomorrow and see what’s coming. But in addition to the predictions are a few bits of news from suppliers, who are saying that Apple will most likely cut production of the iPhone line by 10 percent starting in the first quarter of 2017. This will prevent the company from having too much inventory in stock; Nikkei is citing sluggish sales of the iPhone 7 around the world as the main reason behind the production slowdown. Some analysts felt that Apple could have capitalized on the well-publicized problems with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7, but that the iPhone 7 line lacked features that would create enough interest to pull over a lot of Samsung fans. So expect to see the Apple first quarter earnings hitting records — they’ll be reported in late January — but also expect to see dismal numbers for the second quarter that will be reported in April.

We’ve become quite fond of the 4K drone footage that appears at the end of each month, showing the progress in construction of Apple Campus 2 in Cupertino, California. But even the quality of that imagery pales in comparison to a high-resolution aerial mosaic that is available from SkyIMD. This image uses a 100MP camera with a 90mm lens that is attached to a Cessna 172 aircraft. The company used about 380 100 MP images to create a final image that’s 34,111 pixels wide by 49,487 pixels tall — that’s about 1.7 gigapixels altogether. The ground sample distance is about 3 centimeters per pixel. While it’s fun to zoom into the image and look at the individual pieces, it’s also somewhat perplexing in that we don’t know what some of the structures are that are in the center of the ring-shaped spaceship building. We have a link to the viewer for this image in our show notes.

What happens when human rights groups complain about alleged worker abuses at plants making iPhones and other Apple products? Well, Apple does its best to ensure that those abuses — like forced overtime, low wages and bad living conditions — are minimized by setting standards for its manufacturing partners. But there’s also an unintended consequence that’s starting to come into play. Foxconn is Apple’s primary manufacturing partner, and the company is working hard to eliminate human workers from its Chinese factories. The company can build about 10,000 Foxbots — their proprietary manufacturing robot — a year, and has deployed about 40,000 Foxbots. At factories in Chengdu, Shenzhen, and Zhengzhou, robots have taken over to the point that only a minimum human staff is required for production, logistics, testing and inspection. At the present time, one factory where about half of all iPhones are made is only set up with robots for handling tasks that are either too dangerous or too mundane for humans to do. But eventually, the company will eliminate thousands of jobs through robotics, and will be able to produce iPhones and other products faster and cheaper.

That’s all for today; I’ll be back on Tuesday afternoon with another edition of the AWT News Update.