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Apple component rumours spark demand speculation


iPhone 5
Steve Costello

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Claims that Apple has dramatically cut its orders for iPhone parts has led to questions about whether demand for the flagship smartphone has tailed off – all based on rumours, speculation and guesses.

According to a Wall Street Journal report first published on 13 January, the iPhone maker has cut component orders for its iPhone 5 because of “weaker than expected demand”, including the number of screens it has required dropping to “roughly half” its original expectation.

Orders for other components were also said to have been cut, with suppliers informed in December.

Reports originating from Japanese newspaper Nikkei said that the number of screens initially ordered from Japan Display, Sharp and LG Display was around 65 million – a number which itself raised a few eyebrows, being for the traditionally slow first calendar quarter, and after Apple has been offering the iPhone 5 for some months.

With Apple expected to shift between 40 million and 50 million iPhones in the period to December 2012 – which includes both the first full quarter of iPhone 5 availability as well as the lucrative Christmas holiday sales period – an increase to 65 million seems extremely unlikely even by the most optimistic measure.

In addition, with the iPhone and iPod Touch sharing many components, including screens, it is possible that the music player has also lost some of its cachet, leading to reduced orders for this product.

Reuters subsequently suggested a different reason for the component changes: a slower ramp in the manufacture of the iPhone 5 due to some quality control issues and insufficient production resources.

Apple may have also over-ordered on some parts in order to address worries about supply shortages, which subsequently did not come to pass.

Rather than continuing ordering more and more inventory, the company instead opted to wait on buying more supplies until it had worked through its production and/or inventory issues.

With Apple and its suppliers having not commented officially on the speculation – and the smartphone maker certainly unlikely to do so – it will not be until it releases its results later this month that the market will get an accurate picture of demand during the lucrative holiday sales period.

But even then, it is highly unlikely to comment on its supply chain issues, including whether it has (or has not) cut its parts orders.

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