Apple’s iPhone 6 is supposed to be a big secret in this part of the world, but in China, parts are readily available.
Although the iPhone 6 hasn’t been announced and won’t be in stores for a couple of weeks, everything from the new aluminum case to the sapphire-covered LCD screen is available on the Chinese gray market.
Cult of Mac has been contacted by a U.S. smartphone repair company that offered to sell us a bunch of iPhone 6 components — almost enough to assemble our own device.
“I can get all the parts except the motherboards are very rare and very expensive to purchase,” said the owner of the repair company, who asked to remain anonymous. “The display assemblies alone are $500 per piece right now.”
The repair company owner claims iPhone 6 parts — especially for the upcoming 4.7-inch model — are readily available in China from suppliers to the repair industry.
“All the parts needed for repairs they acquire shortly before release — this is normal,” he said. “Usually they have no need to sell the parts because there’s no demand this early but I’ve bought samples from them … so I can buy parts in the future.”
Apple is famously secretive about its future plans and understandably keeps tight wraps on unannounced products. The company is expected to unveil two new models of the iPhone 6 at a big media event in Cupertino next Tuesday — one with a 4.7-inch screen and a 5.5-inch model. Apple did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
The repair company owner sent dozens of pictures of various components (see the gallery above).
Some of the pictures he took himself, he said; others were sent to him by his Chinese contacts. He offered to overnight some parts. To assure us the parts were genuine, he said we could pay on receipt.
Kyle Wiens from iFixit — the second biggest Apple parts supplier after Apple — said he has also been offered iPhone 6 components. “I’m certainly not surprised that they’ve got parts,” he said. “I get offers all the time to sell me these parts. We’ve stayed out of importing these parts ourselves to avoid incurring the wrath of a certain security team.”
“I think that Apple’s supply chain has gotten so big that they just can’t keep track of all the parts.”
“I think that Apple’s supply chain has gotten so big that they just can’t keep track of all the parts,” Wiens added. “A lot of these may be factory rejects that went for disposal but were diverted.”
The repair owner says he’s sold parts to case makers here in the United States who are trying to get a jump on competitors. He declined to name them.
In the past, some case makers have gone to extreme lengths to be first to market. Hard Candy Cases once spent $50,000 on cases based on a leak that turned out to be incorrect. On another occasion, the company got it right and had cases in stores only a week after a new device was released. It left Hard Candy’s competitors in the dust; it frequently takes months for cases to be designed, manufactured and shipped to stores.
The stakes are high. The market for mobile accessories, which includes cases, has exploded to $26.5 billion, a figure that’s expected to double in 2015, according to ABI Research.
Likewise, the smartphone repair industry is booming, having grown from nothing five years ago to more than $1.1 billion annually, according to market research firm Ibis World.
Although Apple doesn’t sanction third-party repairs, Ibis estimates there are more than 2,300 repair shops in the United States. Most have struck up independent deals with Apple’s supply manufacturers in China.
The U.S. repair company owner says his suppliers are buying the parts legally from Apple’s supply chain and in wholesale quantities, but are generally keeping them under the table.
“Unless someone’s asking, they aren’t advertising they have the parts,” he explained. “Most honestly have no need for them right now.”
He added: “From the five suppliers I buy parts from, only two have the iPhone 6 parts. I trust the businesses I work with and they have been right so far.”
The repair company owner says parts for the 5.5-inch model are much harder to come by. He’s seen only the exterior case, he said, which suggests the 5.5-inch model is not yet in mass-production.
The wide availability of parts seems to be borne out by the large number of component leaks in recent weeks. Almost every component of the iPhone 6 seems to have leaked, allowing Russia outfit Feld & Volk to assemble a near-working device.
The iPhone 6 will be available in gold, silver and black, the repair shop owner said, based on components he’s seen. And the LCD display is made of sapphire glass — a detail that still seems to be in contention in the rumor mill.
“The iPhone 6 definitely has sapphire glass,” he said, adding: “I am in possession of iPhone 6 display assemblies if you need any.”