Vietnam could miss out on AirPods 3 orders due to COVID-19

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AirPods-Pro-vs-AirPods
Apple's next-gen. buds are expected to ship later this year.
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Apple’s plan to start assembling more products in Vietnam is reportedly on hold due to COVID-19 disruptions and limited engineering resources.

It is believed the company’s third-generation AirPods, expected to arrive later this year, will be mass-produced in China instead.

AirPods are one of the products Apple was already largely manufacturing in Vietnam through Inventec. Recent reports suggested Cupertino was also planning to shift some iPad and MacBook production there, too.

But thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to tighter border controls to contain outbreaks of new variants, Apple’s plans are on hold. Google has also faced similar manufacturing disruptions, sources say.

Vietnam could miss out on AirPods 3 orders

Apple “will start mass-producing its latest AirPods earphones in China instead of in Vietnam as previously planned, two people familiar with the situation said,” reads a Wednesday report from Nikkei Asia.

The sources claim that Apple still hopes to shift around 20% of new AirPods production to Vietnam later, but did not provide a timeline for when that might happen. iPad and MacBook production in Vietnam is also on hold.

Apple isn’t the only company that has run into problems getting hardware assembled in Vietnam. Google’s new Pixel 6 range will also be produced in China rather than Vietnam, as originally planned, the report claims.

Amazon also faces delays on a range of smart doorbells, home security camera, and smart speakers after assembly plants in northern parts of Vietnam deal with a surge in local COVID-19 cases.

A lack of engineers

The COVID-19 disruptions and tighter border controls, which make it difficult to bring workers in from elsewhere, have reportedly worsened the lack of local engineering talent in Vietnam.

Its engineering workforce “is still far from adequate,” one source said. “It’s only feasible to make products in Vietnam that are already in mass production elsewhere, rather than starting production of upcoming products from scratch.”