It seemed like Apple was coping well with the iPhone 5 demand, despite it being the company’s fastest-selling iPhone to date. Sure, pre-orders sold out within the first hour of availability, but those who were told they wouldn’t get their new smartphone until October have already begun receiving shipping notifications.
But iPhone 5 production may have hit a stumbling black. The handset’s new 4-inch display, which boasts in-cell touch technology that allows it to be incredible thin, it reportedly causing “significant production constraints” that mean Apple cannot produce the device fast enough.
Not only is it larger than any previous iPhone screen, but the iPhone 5’s display is the first to employ in-cell touch technology. Put simply, that means there are touch sensors embedded within the display itself, and that there’s no need for a digitizer. This allows the display to be super thin, but the downside, according to Bloomberg, is that they’re “painstaking” to produce.
In fact, manufacturers LG Display and Japan Display are having a hard time getting them out of the gate, which is leading to “significant” iPhone 5 supply constraints.
“Apple is facing significant production constraints due to a move toward in-cell display technology,” said Ben Reitzes, an analyst at Barclays, in a research note yesterday. “Apple is struggling to keep up with demand.”
It is reported that Apple has also enlisted Sharp to supply the new 4-inch displays, however, the Japanese company is struggling to eliminate defects in the displays and was unable to begin shipments before the iPhone’s debut last Friday.
Despite the shortages, Reitzes is confident that 10 million in-cell panels will be available during the third calendar quarter. Barclays expects Apple to sell 45.2 million iPhones during the December quarter, and 170.7 million between now and next September.
Display shortages appear to be a recurring problem for Apple; it seems every time the Cupertino company launches a device it’s is the displays that bottleneck production. However, Apple is in a very good position: because its devices are so popular, it gets first pick of parts. As Tom Dinges, senior principal analyst at IHS iSuppli, notes:
Even if you are going to run in to some areas where there are supply shortages, Apple is going to to get a disproportionate amount of the available supply — they are your best customer