Steve Jobs' desire for scratch-resistant glass is why the Apple iPhone is not Made in America

Steve Jobs' desire for scratch-resistant glass is why the Apple iPhone is not Made in America
Why isn't a product so identified with an American company like Apple (American as Apple pie?) made in the U.S.A.? Last February, when President Barack Obama attended a dinner with Silicon Valley stars, each guest was to ask a question to the President. But just as Steve Jobs was about to ask his query, the President had one of his own, "What would it take to make iPhones in the United States? Why can't that work come home?" Jobs simply replied, "Those jobs aren't coming back." The dialogue came from the recollections of a dinner guest, but reveals how Apple has been relying on overseas factories to produce the iconic touchscreen smartphone.

At one time, Apple proudly revealed that its products were home made. And if it weren't for the desire of Jobs to have the Apple iPhone display be scratch-resistant, the iPhone might be like the Springsteen classic, "Born in the USA". According to a story in the New York Times, back in 2007, just weeks before the launch of the original Apple iPhone, Steve Jobs was very upset that his baby could get scratched by keys if it were placed in a pocket. He wanted to switch from a plastic display to one made of glass. The only factory that could do such a job at the last moment was the Foxconn plant in Shenzhen. With Foxconn, a midnight note from Apple could turn into production of 10,000 units a day within 96 hours of receiving the order from Cupertino. An anonymous Apple executive said that no American factory could have matched Foxconn's response.

The glass was actually made in Kentucky by a company as Yankee Doodle as they come, Corning. But a factory was needed to cut the glass and in China, a subsidized plant was already expanding in anticipation of the business. The factory started turning out samples and could run 24 hours a day. Apple denies this version of the story, claiming that it requested the punched time cards to make sure that the plant's staff was not working on short notice and at odd hours. Still, factories in China are known to play fast and loose with the truth in order to placate their customer.

Apple currently has 43,000 stateside employees and 20,000 that work overseas. The company earned an amazing $400,000 per employee last year, the most of any company. An additional 700,000 work for other companies like Foxconn and assemble the Apple iPhone and Apple iPad and other products. These factories in Asia and Europe are known for assembling electronics for other companies. Jared Bernstein, who last year was an economic adviser to the White House said, "Apple’s an example of why it’s so hard to create middle-class jobs in the U.S. now. If it’s the pinnacle of capitalism, we should be worried."

Apple now says that U.S. workers lack the education and skill for domestic manufacturing. In addition, current CEO Tim Cook needs the parts chain to be flexible in case quick changes are needed. Foxconn is said to be able to add 3,000 workers at the drop of a hat, something impossible to do in the States. And it is not just Apple. Other manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, Amazon, Dell, HP, Motorola and others depend on Foxconn's factories to turn out product. Boycotting Apple for producing the iPhone overseas would mean boycotting Android and Windows Phone models as well.

source: NewYorkTimes via electronista



1. Numz

Posts: 34; Member since: Oct 31, 2009

So what can be done and what is being done by our government and these companies to bring these manufacturing jobs back to america? Do companies like Apple even care to bring these jobs to america? Seems like most of the load should rely on the tech companies to bring these jobs back here, we can't rely on the government to solve all our problems but the tech companies such as Apple have to care enough to actually make something happen and some of the responsibility should rely on them.

23. bossmt_2

Posts: 459; Member since: Oct 13, 2009

In short, nothing can be done. Only way to start getting companies to make stuff in america is to buy american. But people won't do that because there is either not the option (such as with smartphones, videogame systems etc.) or doing so is more expensive.

31. Early_Grayce

Posts: 2; Member since: Jan 22, 2012

It's called capitalism baby and it is helped by having to reciprocate in free trade agreements. Capitalism is about anyone who can make money making as much as possible by buying/producing things at the lowest cost possible and selling them at the highest price the market can bear. Free trade agreements were made so that items produced within the country can be sold to other countries but did not factor in lower costs of production in other countries nor the ease at which companies would be able to send small high value products around the world. At the time that countries should have been puting up walls limiting imports the political gains that were possible from saying that you could export to the rest of the world were enough to win elections. If this was done at the same time as chasing highly skilled jobs and offering free education to people the benefits and flow-on effects would have been enough to not care about the imports.

2. Giggity

Posts: 147; Member since: Nov 17, 2011

It's all about minimizing cost and maximizing profit.

36. G2Noobin

Posts: 81; Member since: Dec 17, 2011

Load of Bu** is what this article is...dont try to make excuses Apple ....regardless C**pple still maintains slave labour and has the Cr-**ple-iest terms of functionality...wake up Noobs!

3. Stoli89

Posts: 333; Member since: Jun 28, 2010

It's easy to lie to a president if you're worth billions. The fact is, other manufacturers have plants in Europe (e.g. Finland), Eastern Europe (e.g. Romania), Brazil. Apple chose Foxconn because labor is skilled, flexible, and very very cheap. Because the added value is not taxed at import to address the labor disparity, Apple and other US companies will continue to move manufacturing in this direction. It's a one way check valve. Steve Jobs cared little for the American middle long as they could still buy his phone on a credit card.

28. stealthd unregistered

It'd be nice if you had a single reason to claim Jobs was lying. Try reading the NYT article. It's not just that China is cheaper, it's that they provide such greater scale than is even possible in the United States. They can hire hundreds of thousands of workers and thousands of engineers virtually overnight. Getting the same work force in the US could take over a year.


Posts: 1459; Member since: Mar 09, 2010

They are scamming us America with this bulls**t America doesn't have enough skilled labor to fulfill these jobs, and that no one can hire 3k jobs at a moments notice. We have millions out of work looking for a job, and thousands showing up for a single job's posting, but you "Apple" and others don't want to pay. The sad part is the media, and our president believe that bull s**t. It's about cheap labor, and unfair labor practices like Foxconn has going on that keep those companies sending lore jobs over seas while workers commit suicide because of unfair work practices out side of the US. I know elect Newt Gingrich and he will hire teenagers to work for free. I have it why not privatize jails, and make the jail birds work for free while manufacturers like apple can bring that labor home and pay 3.00 a week with no shipping cost from abroad! When they need more free labor they just find a reason to throw your stupid ass in jail, and collect millions for cheap labor fro prisons. It's already happening, can any one say moral hazard. You spit on the side walk, and get 10 years hard labor to support free prison labor. There will be no reason to give parole to petty crime. Not to mention these privatized jail cells are funded by stock on the stock market. The more the stock rises the more the need to send more free labor to jail. Wake UP!

22. Mozarrt

Posts: 301; Member since: Oct 08, 2011

So thats why you should buy Finnish, Taiwanese or Korean. Because thats how the jobs really stay in America. amirite?


Posts: 1459; Member since: Mar 09, 2010

Mozarrt I never mentioned anything about buying from other nations genius you did. I never inferred this was a remedy either you did. I think that when stupid remarks like yours echo into public sentiment we discover just how much of a mini mind you really are. Buying products made by other manufacturers from other nations has "NOTHING" to do with the fact that "AMERICAN" companies are shafting America for cheap labor abroad; while waving a no skills flag while hiring unskilled foreign workers in communist nations for huge profits to buoy their stock prices. This is not about passing on savings as some have mentioned Apple has made huge margins on the "i products", and that money is passed on to stock holders not the consumer. It is said that Apple has made more than 45% gross profit on that phone so don't for a minute believe they are passing consumers the cost savings. Don't get it twisted either I believe that demand, and prices go hand in hand. If the demand is there and they get high margins then god bless them it's America. I just believe off shoring American jobs for greed and using unskilled labor as a reason is just as unAmerican as dodging taxes by keeping them off shore. Some people in congress want to revamp the immigration laws to allow foreign workers into America to work for lower wages causing further damage to our economy.....wake up! When we as Americans finally wake up we will be owned by China, and the American work force will be all foreign domestically and abroad....wake up!

5. Stuntman

Posts: 843; Member since: Aug 01, 2011

When people start purchasing products because they are made in the US, those jobs will not come back. If Apple (or any other company) makes two phones, one made where it is now and one made in the US and both are priced accordingly to give Apple the same amount of profit, the US made one will be more expensive. If people choose to pay that premium (and perhaps a little more) for the US made phone over the overseas made phone, then those jobs will come back to the US. Does anything think that will happen?

6. StephenJobs

Posts: 2; Member since: Jan 22, 2012

Now all of your fellow American know that how your god "Steve Jobs" treated all of you. You all critic and hate him "Steve Jobs" for not employ you all. I'm know the Americans. Almost all of them are hipockrit. The jobless American yell at Steve Jobs and said that Steve Jobs are not fair. However Steve Jobs, still smilling or laughing loudly, because the jobless American are yelling and picketing at him but on their hands still have Iphone 4s, Iphone 4 or even Iphone 3Gs.....

20. quakan

Posts: 1418; Member since: Mar 02, 2011


32. Early_Grayce

Posts: 2; Member since: Jan 22, 2012

Engrish rocks.

7. Whateverman

Posts: 3295; Member since: May 17, 2009

"Apple now says that U.S. workers lack the education and skill for domestic manufacturing." Bullsh*t! Apple and all these other companies manufacture overseas for one reason and one reason only... To make more money by saving on production cost. I worked at Motorola for years churning out thousands of phones every night right alongside other hardworking educated Americans. Education was never a factor when pinch welding batteries together, ultra sounding housings or placing labels on a phone. Apple takes every potshot it can at it's users, fans and now just the American public in general, but I bet someone below this post is going to come up with some reason why this should be okay. "Apple is a business. They have to make a profit. All the other OEMs are doing it too." blah, blah, blah! Bottom line is, with all thing's about 20-30% cheaper to manufacture overseas and everybusiness is out to make as much money as possible. They don't give a sh*t about the American middle class or what we think about them. All that matters to them is that next year's profit margin is bigger than last years. The other 99% can just suck it!

8. MorePhonesThanNeeded

Posts: 645; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

To add to what you said, the truth is the American worker won't work for such cheap wages to manufacture these devices. You will not find an American working for pennies on the dollar anywhere, and Apple is not willing to pay an American assembly line worker $10-18 an hour to do this work. With full benefits and the like, get serious. Any large American outfit that has to hire workers to do physical labor will not want to do so in good old U.S. of A. Labor laws and Unions are a big deal and they couldn't get away with cheap labor. So run to newly developing countries or countries with lax laws build plants there then export to the U.S. and sell product. They save on manufacturing and make a killing on sales...How much more can Apple call the American Worker an uneducated idiot not fit to assemble their toy phone? Look how they just stated it, and worst yet they make a phone that is basically for the uninitiated, good and bad. But facts are facts people, next time Apple calls themselves an American company, ask yourself what about that company is American aside from the fact that their base of operations is in the US? American built products will cost a lot more than foreign built American branded products. Imagine the cost of iPhone if it was built here, would easily crack $1000 and possibly be $700-800 on contract. The phone is made out of the country cheaply yet it costs almost $700 off contract...say what?

12. Doakie

Posts: 2478; Member since: May 06, 2009

The iPhone has a 71% profit margin. I'm sure they could manufacture it in the usa and still make a profit. They just wouldn't make $400,000 per employee anymore. They're one of the Greedy Corporations that their iPhone owners protest against.

33. Asiimilator

Posts: 1; Member since: Jan 22, 2012

This is a problem.....and it crosses over to many other consumers electronic categories such as the car audio market. I've seen several speaker manufactures move manufacturing facilities overseas or had OEM's build the gear and didn't lower the prices to reflect the lower build cost. They just run with the extra profit. This is one reason I REFUSE to by an iPhone. Why should I even pay $100 when I can get a better or similarly spec'd phone for FREE right now? If I wait a few more months I'll have an even BETTER spec'd phone for FREE. Apple needs to drop the prices down to commodity levels....because thats all an iPhone is....a commodity.

35. cellphonator

Posts: 298; Member since: Oct 29, 2011

Genuine question, no sarcasm: what phone do you buy when you need one?

9. TKFox007

Posts: 303; Member since: Nov 02, 2010

That a big, long and winded excuse for a reason to outsource. Apple just doesn't want to build a factory, hire and train thousands of American workers and pay them minimum wage when they can go to China and pay them pennies on the dollar, push the employees to near death or psychotic episodes leading to suicide. Because they know Americans won't let themselves get pushed around like that, and will demand Apple adhere to labor laws and give them health benefits. And that any company nowadays.

10. belovedson

Posts: 1061; Member since: Nov 30, 2010

didnt phonearena do an article about how apple is holding billions overseas to avoid taxes

11. Bluesky02

Posts: 1439; Member since: Dec 05, 2011

The simple answer is Asian slave laboring is cheap thats it.

13. vijaysivakula

Posts: 229; Member since: Aug 17, 2011

So the cost of manufacturing it abroad and importing it to USA and distributing it across is cheaper than the cost of manufacturing it in US and still gives that kind of profit ratios to Apple. Wow.

14. digicon

Posts: 121; Member since: Aug 11, 2011

It's the same as saying Mexicans are taking away Americans jobs . They're just looking for work . Who's to blame is the Boss that hires them ! for $5 an hour ! rather than hire American for $10 an hour ! They build on Chinese costs , and sell at American costs ! and everyone rejoices because their home is in Cupertino Ca. !

29. dvancleave

Posts: 32; Member since: Jul 19, 2010

Actually this is a common misconception. Cost savings is the primary reason for companies moving production overseas. But not necessarily to avoid paying the higher wages and benfits for the same work to be done here in the U.S. For some reason big business has been portrayed as evil. And the Democrats feel the need for them to pay for their wrongdoings of being successful and making a profit. So they want to tax the heck out of the companies. Nevermind the fact that every individual legally working for that company is already paying federal, state and local taxes. So the companies decide to move away. In the end, no double-dipping on taxes for the government and people lose their job. Thank the government and NAFTA for that. Granted there is a serious disparity in what exceutives are making versus the common worker. There is no contesting that CEO's are WAY over compensated. But that is another, separate issue.

15. Owlet

Posts: 450; Member since: Feb 21, 2011

China is developing pretty rapidly right now. They're probably heading for the same successes and problems that come with them as the USA. So maybe their labor won't be cheap anymore. Jobs will have to come back then.

25. StephenJobs

Posts: 2; Member since: Jan 22, 2012

Yeh, Jobs have to be come back from the grave, hahaha


Posts: 1459; Member since: Mar 09, 2010

This is why the new NAFTA opens up trade to Vietnam. WE just bounce from the cheap to the cheapest nation. After Africa falls what nation will be next cheapest nation for labor. NAFTA is killing American jobs, and if the immigration laws get revamped to open the American gates to foreigners for lower wages every one will fail. I know highly qualified engineers looking for work, while employers say that they can't find skilled labor to fill jobs. They can only find low ball wage offers after making 80k a year now the norm is to look for lower wages to fill those jobs that were displaced! During the Bush administration they imported workers from India under HB1 visas. To keep the import worker working for lower wages CNBC reported they had their work visas confiscated so that they could not look for higher paid jobs. Wake up being told that they can't find skilled labor and importing lower waged engineers to fill American jobs is a scam. The problem is that in America until the grim reaper shows up at your door no one cares until the bell tolls for you, and then its too late!

41. downphoenix

Posts: 3165; Member since: Jun 19, 2010

no, they'll just find some other heavily populated poor country to move their manufacturing to.

16. Eingild

Posts: 203; Member since: Apr 19, 2011

Another reason is that China offers cheap labor. Expensive iPhone - Inexpensive Manufacturing costs = Large amount of profit Now you know how Apple makes a lot of money.

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