Apple’s iPhone 5 Supply Shortage Caused By Assembly Challenges, Foxconn Exec Reports

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Apple’s new iPhone 5 is facing supply challenges, with shipping times via Apple’s website continuing to sit at 3-4 weeks, and stock reportedly scarce in-store as well. That’s because of challenges in the assembly process, according to a new report by the Wall Street Journal which cites an unnamed Foxconn executive as its source.

The executive in question told the WSJ that while the iPhone 5 is “the most difficult device that Foxconn has ever assembled,” the company has been improving its process and overall, production rates are improving daily. Steps to ensure devices don’t ship out with scratches have been taken, another added challenge, but still productivity has been improving. New hiring is helping drive improvements in production capacity, and the executive claimed that while disputes reported on in its Zhengzhou facility did indeed have to do with “quality issues,” they didn’t actually result in work on iPhones being halted.

Apple’s iPhone 5 launched September 21, and since that time, it’s been hard to get a hold of. But it’s worth noting that the iPhone 4S took until January to see shipping times improve to 3 to 5 business days from earlier estimates of 1 to 3 weeks. Likewise, the iPhone 4, which launched in June of 2010, only improved to a 5 to 7 business day anticipated ship time in October of that year, so while the iPhone 5 may be in short supply, this isn’t the first time.

Assembly and supply choke points are likely still the primary limiting factor on iPhone 5 sales in the U.S. and abroad. Apple’s earnings call on October 25 might shed some light on how it’s been selling so far, however, and the extent to which those constraints are limiting sales, but watching for improved shipping estimates will likely be the best indicator of progress in this particular area.