Video Report From Inside Foxconn: Your iPhone Is Handmade


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ABC aired an episode of Nightline last night showing exclusive video from inside “Apple’s Chinese factories.” In the video, presenter Bob Weir explores the production lines at Foxconn. Two things really stand out. First, the place is clean. And I mean really clean. Second, the iPhone is essentially hand made, with 141 human steps needed to assemble it.

You’ll also see that your iPhone is made by teenagers. Weir says that most workers were young, with nobody over 30. I did some horrible jobs at that age, and this looks no worse.

Some more numbers:

Two shifts (one full day) can produce 300,000 iPad camera modules.

325 people assemble one iPad, taking five days to do it.

10,000 unibody iPad shells can be produced per hour

One person cleans the burrs from these shells by hand, 3,000 per shift

Each shift lasts 12 hours, with two hour-long meal breaks

An average meal costs a worker 70 cents

Workers take a siesta back on the line before returning to work

Workers live in dorms, eight to a room

There are lots of extra-curricular activities, including sports and study (the language lab is stocked with iMacs)

Now, clearly Foxconn knew that the TV crew was coming, but the sheer size of the operation seems to make it impractical to fake anything. Sure, working in a factory 12 hours per day is a crappy job, but this doesn’t look any worse than factories in the U.S or Europe. If the embedded video doesn’t work for you, catch the whole thing over at ABC.

[Via Apple Insider]

  • Gereon

    A different look inside by Mike Daisey and This American LifeThe TAL podcast the transcript this is Daisey’s comment on the nightlife report

  • Andrew Griffin

    I’m sorry, but this article is really rather tasteless. First of all, the very fact of saying ‘handmade’, let alone having it as the headline of your article, is a horrific misrepresentation, as I think you know.

    Further, what exactly are you saying here?:

    “You’ll also see that your iPhone is made by teenagers. Weir says that most workers were young, with nobody over 30. I did some horrible jobs at that age, and this looks no worse.”

    That it’s okay? That kids everywhere do exploitative work? That you know what it’s like?

    And also:

    “Sure, working in a factory 12 hours per day is a crappy job, but this doesn’t look any worse than factories in the U.S or Europe.”

    Except, as far as I know, in most of those places workers don’t “live in dorms, eight to a room.”

    And anyway, even if all of this matched up, your basic point seems to be that it’s okay that Foxconn is a horrible place to work because it’s horrible to work in other places like it in the West. That’s no kind of argument at all. There isn’t a finite amount of badness in the world, other places being equally bad does not make any of them less bad.

    I and almost everyone have struggled with the fact that my gadgets are produced in awful conditions, as it’s clear you have. This, I know, is a terrible thought, full of cognitive dissonance, difficult to think about for very long. However, the solution to this is definitely *not* to try and make bad things okay.

  • Lyle

    What is so bad about it? With tens of thousands of Chinese lining up outside Foxconn to obtain a job, it’s clear that these jobs are enviable. It is completely inappropriate to consider this through a Western lens. It is very clear that these conditions are huge upgrades to the typical working conditions in China. And other reports have well documented the fact, as does this article, that Foxconn and Apple are trying to better the lives of the workers — providing meals and language learning.

    So get off the high horse. We have a right to be concerned. We do not have a right to compare and judge the conditions against the Western yardstick, which, by the way, isn’t doing so well right now.

  • Zeek Seseika

    I’m wondering how it looks in ,say a shoe or pants factory that walmart deals with…

  • Andrew Griffin

    The fact that these jobs are enviable does not, in any way, mean that they’re good, just that not having one is worse.

    I am not on a high horse. I made it pretty clear that I am not letting those responsible for the conditions in the West off.

  • Krioni

    Along with all the moral and ethical issues around Foxconn, I have a straightforward complaint about the sloppy wording around numbers: 
    “325 people assemble one iPad, taking five days to do it.”

    This strongly implies that it takes 5 * 325 = 1625 person-days to get a single iPad built (i.e. (those 325 people work together on a single iPad, and are all tied up on just that iPad for all 5 days). They probably meant that one iPad takes 5 days to go through those 325 different people working on it, while those workers handle hundreds of thousands of other iPads, otherwise they would need over 250 million workers to just barely keep up with the demand for sales of iPads. 

  • CharliK

    No one under 30 is hardly “made by teenagers”. And it disregards the issue that in China it might be possible that once one is 16, there’s no more required school and thus it is totally legal to get a job like this as an ‘adult’. Plus 18-19 are also ‘teenagers’ and even in the US they are legally adults. 

  • CharliK

    Indeed. In fact the chief complaint is boredom and the roteness of the work. Which backs up your version. And your version likely includes travel time as various parts are probably assembled in different rooms or even floors and buildings. So 5 days is likely the time from the various components being unpacked in one or more rooms to when the iPad bits have traveled through various rooms and finally hits the last one where it has been boxed up and is ready to ship. 

  • CharliK

    Looking at these facts it seems that Foxconn isn’t that nasty. The cost of meals puts the wage in better perspective. And no one has claimed that they are getting bread and water for that price. 

    Dorm rooms that cost about a day’s labor isn’t that bad. Nor is the 8 people. depending on the size of the rooms. Which no one is claiming are prison cells. 

    with 10k shells being produced an hour why aren’t they making every person clean up that whole batch in a day. Lazy twerps. the slaves need to work harder. 

    and speaking of working harder with 325 people working on that iPad it shouldn’t take more than half a day to put it together. lazy again. 

    and how dare they get 2 hours worth of breaks or study rooms.