Violations include excessive overtime, lack of protective gear
Another Apple supplier, Catcher Technology, is being accused of violating labor and safety standards, according to The New York Times. The paper says that two groups -- Green America, an environmental non-profit, and China Labor Watch -- have found that workers at a Catcher-owned factory in Suqian, China are being forced to work excessive overtime and in unsafe conditions. Although Catcher has contracts with other electronics firms, Apple is a major client, for whom it produces metal iPad and MacBook shells.
Defects delay Catcher's entry into device's supply chain
Apple has at least temporarily rejected Catcher as a source for 4.7-inch iPhone 6 casings, says China's Economic Daily News. In testing, Apple is said to have discovered defects in the areas connecting metal and plastic parts in sample casings, caused by Catcher's anodizing methods. In the short-term orders have been placed with Jabil and Foxconn instead; it may take Catcher up to two to three months to fix the glitches.
Company already said to be taking 40 percent of revenue from Apple
Analysts for two financial firms, Barclays and Morgan Stanley, are contending that Taiwanese firm Catcher Technology will supply metal casings for the next-generation iPhone. Both firms in fact expect Catcher's share of iPhone 6 casings to top 10 million units this year. Much of the argument is based on Catcher's existing involvement in the Apple supply chain; the firm is thought to produce casings for both the MacBook Pro and the iPhone 5s, to the degree that 40 percent of its revenue stems from Apple orders.
Amazon rumored to be prepping next Kindle Fire
Amazon may have already started placing orders for parts for its next-generation Kindle Fire. According to Digitimes, Taiwan-based chassis maker Catcher Technology has recently received parts orders from the online retail giant. The leak comes from upstream sources, although when approached about the potential deal Catcher declined to offer any comment about its partners.
Multi-Fineline Electronix posts high Dec. sales
The performance of Apple suppliers is pointing toward a strong December quarter for the company, analysts indicate. UBS analyst Maynard Um uses the example of Multi-Fineline Electronix, which helps supply flexible printed circuit boards for products like the iPhone and iPad. MFE has posted preliminary net sales of $239 million for the quarter, exceeding a $215 million consensus forecast.
Catcher overtime may be iPad 3 clue
A combination of statements and rumors on Friday has hinted that Apple might be pulling out stops to get the iPad 3 released as soon as possible in 2012. With rumors circulating from Taiwan's Economic Daily News that the iPad 3 was being targeted for a wide window between mid-February and late March, Catcher mentioned that some staff would have to work overtime during the Lunar New Year holiday in and around January 23. Informal sources also had other key iPad suppliers trimming back, with Foxconn (Hon Hai Precision Industry) limiting vacations to five days, battery designer Simplo, camera lens maker Genius, and connection builder Amer all having some staff work through the break.
Apple commanding unibody chassis supply
Ultrabook vendors are switching to alternate chassis designs to cope with a scarcity of unibody aluminum chassis capacity, according to sources from PC vendors cited by Digitimes. In particular companies are said to be substituting aluminum with materials like high-density fiberglass, or else using aluminum on the outside but plastic parts on the inside. The root of the capacity problem is said to lie with a combination of technology, temporary issues, and demand by Apple.
Wistron develops exotic material for ultrabook PCs
Contract supplier Wistron is developing a new material to help ultrabook makers who have been finding new materials for their designs after being squeezed by Apple. The firm's president Robert Hwang was working with a new notebook chassis partner to create a new material to use as a substitute, he told local news outlet Apple Daily. It wouldn't have connections either to metal or to substitutes that have been used in its place, such as carbon fiber or fiberglass.
Should return Air, Pro shipments to normal
A major Apple supplier, Catcher Technology, has confirmed it will fully reopen a closed Chinese plant next week, according to Reuters. The facility has been in limbo since mid-October, when it was forced to temporarily shut down because of complaints of strange odors received by local government. Catcher has previously said it would resume operations by November, and spend about $2-3 million to reduce pollution.
Catcher to spend 2-3m fixing MacBook Air plant
Catcher's MacBook Air plant shutdown should be rectified by November, the company said late Thursday. It planned to spend between $2 million to $3 million to improve its equipment at the aluminum casing factory to cut back on gas emissions and alleviate environmental concerns. Originally, Catcher hadn't given a timeframe for the fix.
Shipments will 'inevitably be affected'
Metal casing supplier Catcher Technology has partially shutdown a plant in eastern China, following environmental complaints made to the local government by area residents, says the Wall Street Journal. Catcher elaborates that the complaints revolved around a "strange odor" coming from the complex. The facility primarily supplies casing for the MacBook Air, as well as some smartphones.
Company consuming much of Asian supply chain
A number of ultrabook makers have been forced to look for alternative chassis materials as a result of Apple, sources in the chassis industry observe. A magnesium-aluminum hybrid is said to be the normal preferred material, since ultrabooks must be less than 0.8 inches thick and still protect against damage. Creating a unibody magnesium-aluminum chassis requires a CNC lathe, however, which is cost prohibitive for many suppliers.
iPhone 5 and even iPad 3 production starting up
The earliest phases of production for the iPhone 5 and supposedly the iPad 3 are underway, part suppliers maintained Friday. Suppliers are reportedly gathering materials now with the expectation that full-scale assembly and shipments will start in both for August with releases on or before October. Despite rumors, just one completely new iPhone was claimed by Digitimes' sources to be on tap, while the iPad 3 may have a 2048x1536 display that would crest a pixel density of 250DPI, even as it goes thinner and lighter.
MacBook Air Sandy Bridge put in June or July
Apple's upcoming Sandy Bridge-based MacBook Air has been pegged once more for the early summer. The ultraportable's shipments have been narrowed down to late May for a release in June or July. Apple's practices suggested the launch would be "considerably large" and outpace those with other computer builders, enough that Digitimes understood the supply chain was leaning primarily on Apple for success.