Apple will start turning prototypes into products outside of China

Apple will start turning prototypes into products outside of China

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A folding iPhone might leave a portion of the screen always exposed.
Turning a design into a product doesn't have to happen in China.
Photo: Apple/Cult of Mac

Apple will increase the number of countries where it does an important phase in developing products, according to a industry analyst. Currently, its R&D-oriented New Product Introduction (NPI) sites are in China, but the company plans to build NPI offices in other places as well.

Recent COVID shutdowns — which have disrupted several recent products — are supposedly the reason for the change.

Apple expanding new product introduction sites beyond China

Mac, iPhone, iPad, etc. are all designed in the United States, but that’s just the start of the process. For those unfamiliar with turning drawings into devices, New Product Introduction is the stage where designs are turned into something ready to be manufactured. Apple currently has two NPI facilities in China; one in Beijing, the other in Shenzhen. Apple engineers at these sites work closely with Apple’s manufacturing partners, like Foxconn, to work out the complex manufacturing processes needed to build Apple’s products at huge scale.

And Apple is reportedly about the change how it handles this phase. The company’s NPI sites are all still in China, though the company considered building some in other countries when the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020, according to Ming-Chi Kuo from TF International Securities.

“However, after the recent lockdowns in China, to diversify supply chain management risks, building NPI sites in non-China is no longer a proposal but an action plan,” the analyst says in a tweet on Thursday.

It’s not a shocking idea: China isn’t the only country where Apple computers are assembled. Most notably, some iPhones are made in India. The Mac Pro is assembled in the United States. And Apple has reportedly explored increasing its manufacturing outside of China in the past.

At a time when COVID lockdowns in a couple of Chinese cities have pushed MacBook wait times back until June, it’s not surprising the company might think it has too many eggs in one basket. Opening new product introduction sites in other countries could be part of a larger change.