Plastic Casing For Apple’s Low-Cost iPhone Gets Confirmed In A Supplier Responsibility Investigation

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Apple’s plans to release a low-cost iPhone got a solid confirmation from a new report by China Labor Watch this morning. The unlikely source of the new product info was an undercover investigation into Pegatron to shed light on working conditions at the Apple supplier (which also acts as a partner to other consumer electronics makers).

A description plucked from a diary entry by an undercover investigator posing as a worker reveals the salient details around the low-cost iPhone and its plastic back, as first reported by Computerworld. Here’s the relevant segment in full:

Today’s work is to paste protective film on the iPhone’s plastic back cover to prevent it from being scratched on assembly lines. This iPhone model with a plastic cover will soon be released on the market by Apple [...] The new cell phone has not yet been put into mass production, so quantity is not as important.

The key details here are first that the leaks we’ve seen showing a plastic casing for an iPhone are likely true, and that the “coming soon” release window is also accurate, though there’s no telling whether this is gearing up for a fall launch. The phone is also notably not yet in the mass-production phase, though there’s still time for that to take place between the time the information was recorded in the report and a late fall release date, as appears to be most likely for Apple’s upcoming iPhone refresh.

The report isn’t meant to tease iPhone production details, of course; it’s actually supposed to depict working conditions at the factory, and suggests that Apple isn’t keeping up with the promises it makes in its Supplier Responsibility materials on its site and in its regular reports on the subject. The report says that Chinese workers are doing six-day weeks, with 11 hour shifts and making only around $1.50 an hour for a total of $268 per month, which is far under the local monthly average of $764 and not enough to qualify as a living wage for Shanghai, China Labor Watch says.

China Labor Watch and other groups consistently try to draw attention to working conditions in the country, often using Apple as a particularly high-profile example. Ironically, this report may be its biggest attention draw yet, since it features solid information about an unreleased product that many investors and consumers are watching in the West with bated breath.