Apple iPhone production is shifting from humans to robots at a serious pace

Who makes your smartphone? Sure, you obviously know what brand your smartphone, but where did it come from? How did it go from being a pile of components and a blueprint to the finished, fully assembled, functional gadget in your pocket today? Despite how high tech our phones are, there's still a lot of old-fashioned human labor that goes into putting them together – or at least, there used to be. Manufacturers now find themselves turning more and more to robots in efforts to improve efficiency, make working conditions safer, and optimize the phone-assembly process. That's just what's going on in China with Apple's manufacturing partners for the iPhone, as Foxconn replaces more than half the jobs at one factory with robot labor.

In China's Kunshan county, automation is on the rise, with investment in robotics exploding. At one Foxconn factory there, a work force of 110,000 has been reduced to just 50,000 over the course of the last couple years.

With robots and AI systems replacing those employees, that spells a lot more automation for the manufacturing process of your next iPhone.

But is this shift good or bad? While robot-driven smartphone assembly offers some clear benefits, it's impossible to ignore that we're talking about taking jobs away from workers.

On one hand, that means fewer labor issues threatening to disrupt production, as well as reduced opportunity for leaks. And with such factories often the target of reports of human rights violations, it sounds like a good idea to reduce how many people are ultimately involved.

But all that said, these employees now replaced by robotic labor are going to have to find other jobs somewhere, and that's fast becoming an issue in Kunshan. It's a problem that's going to have to be addressed, but for the moment there's no sign that the move to more and more reliance on robots is slowing down.

source: South China Morning Post via 9to5 Mac



1. djcody

Posts: 236; Member since: Apr 17, 2013

So let a robots by that phone's

3. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

So many mistakes in one sentence

7. kiko007

Posts: 7520; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

Can we even call that monstrosity a sentence?

8. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

You forgot the . grammar nazi...

9. kiko007

Posts: 7520; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

The? Where?

11. kiko007

Posts: 7520; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

Oh I see what you mean. Disregard my previous comment :D.

24. janis

Posts: 397; Member since: Mar 10, 2014

its always nice to complain, do you know his language? i believe not all users here all native English speaking point is i got his idea i believe you too.

28. djcody

Posts: 236; Member since: Apr 17, 2013

You right, I'm native Polish person, never learn English at school, Russian was mandatory by my time ;)

32. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

No nie wierzę ;D

23. legiloca

Posts: 1676; Member since: Nov 11, 2014

So let the robots buy the phones. thanks me later.. *flies away*

26. Sidewinder

Posts: 515; Member since: Jan 15, 2015

*thank me later...

41. legiloca

Posts: 1676; Member since: Nov 11, 2014

autocorrect fail lol :D just now I noticed it

2. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

Good, less suicides for making inanimate objects...

4. TmoRep

Posts: 107; Member since: Apr 20, 2016

Well that is terrible for the people. Lot of families going to suffer now if they can't find a new job soon.

13. zunaidahmed

Posts: 1185; Member since: Dec 24, 2011

As time goes by, the "worker" would be more and more replaced by robots. There are gonna be accepting for some niche products that cost a lot just because they are handmade. By worker, I mean low technical jobs, so in the future, not studying isnt gonna get you anywhere

20. TmoRep

Posts: 107; Member since: Apr 20, 2016

Well, all machines need repaired by someone whether it's a phd holder or the average joe from a industrial machine shop that only has experience and no education It's going to get fixed the same way.

27. TerryTerius unregistered

That's exactly the point. Low skilled low-wage jobs are always the first to go. But that doesn't mean new opportunities won't open up elsewhere. That being said, it does make it even more critical that we figure out how to make college free or at least more accessible to everyone or you really will have unemployment of epic proportions and mass poverty

31. sissy246

Posts: 7129; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

No not free, I for one don't need to pay more in taxes so lazy students don't have to work to pay their way. It is sad to here about any company going to robots and people losing jobs.

5. Ruturaj

Posts: 1484; Member since: Oct 16, 2014

I work in company which make those robots, supplying 70 something machines to foxconn that will put antenna on next iphone.

6. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

more profit for apple as manufacturing cost will go down... After all Apple dont make enuf money right?

10. TmoRep

Posts: 107; Member since: Apr 20, 2016

Are you sure manufacturing cost will go down? The people hardly got paid at all, probably the same as the maintenance and upkeep of the machines. Though I could be wrong. A broken machine in my previous job cost hundreds of thousands to fix where as a person only cost 30k a year depending on position and tenure.

16. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Well study clearly say its already save money and will continue to improve over time. a sad sad truth :(

21. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Its not sad. What this emans is, peopel need to take their butts to school and get a better education, get very good grades to increase their opportunity to go to college. Many politicains are pushing for the US Gov't to help peopel to to college for free, as long as they meet a certain criteria. Also they can make corporations contribute to this pool with money. Because after all, if they land the right person, this person can earn a company millions of dollars which is huge considering a college education is considerably less. Also for what the US waste on military spending, the cost of one fighter jet can pay for college for over 2000+ students easy and still have change left over. We need to stop resorting to retail and factory jobs because in the US, there aren't any factory jobs anymore, and retail jobs don't pay jack. Its not solely about cost. Its about owners wanting to pocket as much money as they can, using the cheapest labor because they dont have to provide salaries, benefits, workmans-comp and more. But retail and service jobs do need to pay more because, no matter how smart you may be, it doesn't guarantee when you get out of college the job you want will be waiting, and with you already have debt from school, a need for a job right away is critical. That is why the Gov't should pay for it. After all they have the money. For corps who contribute to this fund would receive some tax incentives, the student would need to keep a certain attendance and GPA to qualify each semester. For those who successfully finish, the corps who contribute should immediately hire these people, so they can have the job they expected to have when they graduate. It should be equal to all no matter the color, because there are smart people in all cultures. we need to drop affirmative action, but corps need to make employment fair to all and not be having majority of one race. Same goes for colleges and universities. They need to be more for culture and not being racist in who they accept. Because jobs on the low end, unless you get a trade job are goign to be low paying, terrible slave labor. Corps want overseas labor because they can work those people 24/7/365. They don't have to deal with labor laws, they can hire teens, they don't have to pay benefits/unemployments/vacation/medical/dental/hos​pital....nothing!

22. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

I do think if robots start building phones, the quality is goign to go down as it did with cars. Cars still built by hand with limited robotic interaction are better. Most robots are use to life parts that maybe are to heavy for a human, or painting cars where toxic fumes could kill a human. This is fine. But everything else can be done by hand and leaves room for less mistakes with proper training.

17. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Robots reduce costs over all because a robot can do more work in the same amount of time as so many humans. I just dont see robots being able to handle those tiny parts and snapping them into place. I only see them cutting cases and PCB's.

19. TmoRep

Posts: 107; Member since: Apr 20, 2016

The closest I've seen machines come to assembling something is cars and even then it's closely monitored by people and it's nothing very intricate. I used to use an Amada laser machine in my previous job was a 3/4 million dollar machine and I need to constantly watch the machine as it would have constant errors in coding or anomalies that could be similar to human error. We had a small cardboard ring in the machine the helps run it, and it tore and cost 65 thousand dollars to replace...

12. Unordinary unregistered

Just in time to shift iPhone production over to the US when Trump becomes president. No high wages to pay. #robotlivesmatter

25. tedkord

Posts: 17463; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

A) iPhone production isn't coming back B) Trump isn't going to be president

29. kiko007

Posts: 7520; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

A) Totally agree. I really hope they at least try to create new job opportunities here though. B) God I hope not! But considering the uptick in stupid in America lately, and the fact his running mate isn't all that tactful, I may have to consider Canada as a future destination :D.

14. ameran

Posts: 344; Member since: Dec 04, 2013

I assume those robots are made by Samsung.

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