Rare tour tries to prove Foxconn isn’t the hellhole we thought it was

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Tim Cook meeting an iPhone manufacturer in China.
Tim Cook meets a worker at the Foxconn factory during a recent trip. Photo: Apple
Photo: Apple

Having been the subject of Pulitzer Prize-winning reports and BBC documentaries, the questionable standards of conditions at Apple supplier Foxconn’s factories has made the company notorious, while its work building iPhones has made it rich.

But a new tour of the company’s sprawling Shenzhen factory — where the company makes iPads and Macs among other products — is eager to paint a very different picture: one of changing company, more like a university campus, with plenty of educational opportunities, and suicide stats below that of the U.S.

Apple teams with Foxconn to launch iPhone trade-in program in China

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People queue for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus all across China. Photo: People's Daily/Weibo
People queue for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus all across China. Photo: People's Daily/Weibo

Apple’s doing everything it can to push its brand in China, which Tim Cook is convinced will soon take over from the U.S. as the company’s primary market.

Having recently taken the top spot for smartphone sales in the country for the first time ever, and also beaten out the likes of Gucci and Chanel to be named China’s favorite luxury brand, Apple is now teaming with manufacturer Foxconn to introduce a trade-in program for iPhones — letting customers exchange their older iPhone handsets for credit against other Apple products.

The program is set to go into action next week, on March 31.

How much is the life of an iPhone 6 assembler worth? About $12,000

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Tim Cook greeting Foxconn workers in China. Photo: Apple
Tim Cook greeting Foxconn workers in China. Photo: Apple

A Chinese workers’ rights group released a new report today that sheds light on the deplorable working conditions in factories that assemble the iPhone 6. According to China Labor Watch, on February 3, 2015, Pegatron assembly line worker Tian Fulei died while assembling the iPhone 6.

The hospital labeled the cause of death as “sudden death,” but fellow workers say Tian worked long overtime shifts day after day, which gave his family reason to believe that Tian died from overwork.

To smooth things over, Pegatron reportedly offered the family a measly $2,400 as compensation for their son’s death. Tian’s family of farmers couldn’t afford to pay for an expensive independent autopsy to prove the death was work-related. Eventually they took Pegatron’s next offer of $1,277 for his untimely death.

Crystal Baller: Dual-lens iPhone 6s, ARM-based Macs and 6 more crazy Apple rumors

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The iPhone 6S rumor mill is churning

We get slammed 24/7 with new Apple rumors. Some are accurate, most are not. To give you a clue about what’s really coming out of Cupertino in the future, we’re busting out our rumor debunker each week to blow up the nonsense.

We've coming out of our winter hibernation to an avalanche of new iPhone 6S rumors claiming Apple's next smartphone will have the biggest camera upgrade ever. There's also whispers of a 12-inch MacBook Air on the horizon, and a possible ARM-powered Mac in the next year.

Step up to the crystal ball and find out which of these rumors is most likely to come true in 2015.

Apple and Intel are breaking up?

The Rumor: Your iMacs and MacBooks will be powered by ARM processors in 1 - 2 years/

The Verdict Not likely to happen yet. Ming Chi Kuo, aka “the world’s most accurate Apple analyst” has been wrong a time or two, and I think this is time he’s way off. Ditching Intel chips has been rumored forever. It still doesn’t make sense, as Apple would be sacrificing a lot of processing power for modest battery gains. It could happen in the next five years, but Kuo’s prediction that we’ll see an ARM powered MacBook in the next year sounds too soon to be true.

Dual-lens iPhone cameras?

The Rumor: The iPhone 6S will feature a dual-lens camera with optical zoom capabilities.

The Verdict: Sounds almost too good to be true, but we’ve heard this year’s camera upgrade will be the biggest ever. The iPhone is now the 2nd most popular camera brand in the world. Adding optical zoom and better image quality might be enough convince most users to never buy a regular camera again.

Apple patent takes aim at GoPro

The Rumor: GoPro is in trouble after Apple won a patent on its own wearable camera system.

The Verdict Apple is not making a wearable camera. Not because it couldn’t make a kickass wearable camera that’s even better than GoPro, but because there’s just not enough money in the wearable cameras market. If Apple can’t sell tens of millions of units of a product every quarter there’s no point in making it. GoPro investors can rest easy for another year.

iPhone joystick?

The Rumor: Your next iPhone could sport a hidden gaming joystick behind the home button.

The Verdict Probably not going to happen. There are so many more parts that could break and need repair if Apple moved to a spring loaded joystick/home button. We still haven’t seen any iPhone gaming cases take off, and this is certainly an intriguing idea, but this patent is mostly likely a glimpse into an alternative Apple universe we’ll never see.

Meet Apple's new sapphire supplier

The Rumor: Apple already lined up a new a sapphire supplier.

The Verdict Too early to tell. Ever since GTAT went belly up Apple’s been hunting for a new sapphire supplier. Previous rumors have claimed Foxconn will step in, while a recent Wall Street Journal report points to Apple supplier Desay as the possible GTAT replacement. The company already makes sapphire displays for its smartphones. Maybe the S in iPhone 6S will stand for “sapphire.”

Ready for a RAM upgrade?

The Rumor: 2GB of RAM will be the new standard on the iPhone 6S.

The Verdict The odds of the iPhone 6S getting 2GB of RAM is incredibly likely. We’re not expecting a design overall on the 6S, but there should be plenty of big internal upgrades. The iPhone 6 only has 1GB of RAM. Doubling it will certainly make it wicked fast, and all those new Metal-coded games will look better than ever.

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iPhone is ditching LCD

The Rumor: Future iPhones are set to get OLED displays.

The Verdict Count on it, but not until 2016. Foxconn is reportedly dedicating an entire factory to pumping out OLED displays for iPhones and Apple wearables. Mass production probably won’t start until 2016, which will come just in time for Apple to swap out the iPhone 6s’ LCD display with a thinner, brighter OLED beauty.

12-inch MacBook Airs with one port?

The Rumor: Apple’s redesign of the MacBook Air will pare it down to a 12-inch screen with just one port: USB Type C.

The Verdict The entire 12-inch MacBook Air Stealth scoop by Mark Gurman sounds almost too unreal. I’ll just say, I’ve also heard from one of his incredibly well placed sources, that it is going to happen.

Apple’s next iPhones could have all-new OLED displays

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Things have gotten slightly worse for Apple's supply chain workers. Photo: Apple
Foxconn's relationship with Apple may be set to become even closer. Photo: Apple

Foxconn’s new $2.6 billion factory dedicated to building displays exclusively for Apple will supply OLED panels for future iPhones and wearables, according to a report from leading Japanese newspaper Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun.

Long-time Apple manufacturer Foxconn is supposedly working with touch panel company InnoLux to put together an ecosystem, allowing it to produce sixth-gen low temperature poly-silicon films, aimed at entering mass production in 2016.