The new iPad is here, and everyone is excited about it. The new Retina display, the A5X processor with quad-core graphics, the iSight camera, and the LTE chip are all assembled together to form the most advanced tablet today. Here’s the question, will the launch of the new iPad puts a new pressure to Foxconn workers? Well, a Foxconn worker who is working on the new iPad assembly line thinks it’s much easier to work on the new iPad than working on the iPhone 4S.
The New iPad Assembly Line
“I thought it’s called the iPad 3, that’s what we called it before,” Li Qi told reporters of The China Business News.
Li Qi (not real name) works at Foxconn’s Shenzhen plant and he was involved in the production of the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4S. Right now, he works on the production line of the new iPad.
Earlier this year, Foxconn started mass production of the new iPad with one class of workers at each assembly line. According to Li Qi, each line initially process 1,000 units in 10 hours, but after the Chinese New Year festival, which runs from Jan. 23-28, the productivity of the new iPad gradually increased to each production line spewing out 150 new iPads an hour.
Li Qi works at one of the heavily regimented factories inside the Foxconn plant in Shenzhen. Inside the factory, workers assemble, inspect and test iPads. Just like all other workers, Qi’s daily job is to assemble the buttons (the home button, the volume buttons) and cables into the new iPad. According to Qi, there are some other buildings inside Foxconn’s Shenzhen plant, which are also in production of the new iPad. Workers on each level of the building have different jobs:
Meanwhile, there are over 30 assembly lines working on the new iPad, and according to Qi, there were not that many for the iPad 2. Speaking of working conditions, the production lines are strictly managed. One has to wear anti-static clothing in certain zones, and walk through security doors, just like what we have seen in ABC’s exclusive access to Foxconn’s iPad assembly line. Inspection procedures are more than any other division and total silence is maintained at assembly points. Workers are not allowed to talk during work, and definitely no slacking off.
Working On The iPhone 4S Production Line
In May last year, Li Qi worked on the production line of iPhone 4S. Qi was initially working on the iPad production line, and the reason why he got arranged to work on the iPhone production line is due to the plant’s regular production adjustments. In order to meet the high demand for iPhone 4S, Foxconn needs to draw workers from the iPad production line to support the iPhone production line.
Qi was expecting to enjoy the benefits of free accommodation and salary increase when he gets to the iPhone assembly section. He was also very excited to see the Apple iPhone since it was already very well-known at that time. What’s more, Qi had worked on the Nokia production line before, and he was curious about what the iPhone production line looks like. However, working on the iPhone production line is tough actually.
When Qi finally arrived at the iPhone production line, he learned a totally different story – the production of iPhones is much more tiring than production of iPads. Qi had to do a lot of overtime work, he needs to wake up before six and goes to work at seven. Work is organized in two shifts (morning and afternoon). Qi works 3 hours in the morning, and 4-6 hours in the afternoon. However, according to Qi, there is not even 10 minutes of break during a day’s work. On the other side, he had been allowed two-three breaks (10-minute) a day when he worked on the iPad production line.
Qi basically worked on Apple’s iPad, and he has never participated in the production of an iPhone. So, for the things Qi have to learn before he can do them, he learns by doing them. There was one time when Qi returned to work after lunch, the production line he worked at only made over 100 iPhones. That is unacceptable, since each production line will produce more than 3500 phones in a day, according to another factory worker Wang Hua (not real name) at Guanlan district working long term on assembling iPhones. Well, we thought more iPhones could be made since we’ve reported that Foxconn’s Zhengzhou factory is able to produce 200,000 iPhones in a single day.
Hate The iPhone Production, Wants to Stay in iPad Production Line
At first, Li Qi was so fond of the iPhone that he described it as the best smartphone of the world. Here’s what he wrote in his diary,
“First close contact with iPhone 4S, it is really the best smartphone of the world, both hardware and software are great.”
Today, that is not the case anymore. Working at the iPhone assembly line had given Qi a bad impression of Apple’s iPhone .At the new iPad production line, Li Qi works 6 days a week and get a one day off. He recently averaged over 80 hours overtime each month. His base pay was just 900 yuan ($143) per month when he started working as a junior level worker in the factory, and now, he gets 2,350 yuan ($372). Plus the overtime pay, he gets 3,500 yuan ($555) in total, and that’s enough to buy the new iPad.
From Qi’s experience, workers on the iPad production line seem to get more rest than the workers on the iPhone production line. Ever since March, Qi and his workmates already took three days off on the new iPad production line. Qi is feeling a little uneasy about it, since he only took one or two days off every month when he was working on the production line of the iPhone 4S, and he often worked overtime till 8 pm. Anyway, he’s glad.
Interestingly, Li Qi felt proud and somewhat worried after looking at the online reports of the new iPad. Being a worker of the new iPad assembly line, Qi thinks the new iPad is similar to iPad 2 in terms of the appearance, but he thinks the new iPad has indeed more powerful features. Since he has worked on both the iPad and iPhone assembly lines, he has come to the conclusion that the new iPad production is easier than iPhone 4S production. Meanwhile, he’s worried about the new iPad sales. Why? If sales do not increase, he might be sent to help the iPhone production.
Workers’ conditions really have nothing to do with Apple. Apple cannot control whether or not Foxconn will allow workers to rest. The only thing they can do is ask Foxconn whether it can meet the demanded volume at a certain time at a certain price. Foxconn could say yes, like they did, or no, which they’ll go into negotiation table. For the new iPad, the featured Retina display has a screen resolution that is so high that Foxconn or any other contract manufacturer could have big issues at making the devices in mass quantities and fast enough if the demand proves to be high, and most likely it will be. As long as there’s a huge demand for Apple products, there will be stressful assembly work going on in Foxconn’s manufacturing facilities.
p.s. China Business News is one of the most well-known and recognized finance’s newspaper in China. They ran a story on substandard working conditions inside Foxconn in 2006, and Foxconn filled a lawsuit against them. Foxconn later withdrew its defamation lawsuit against the newspaper.
Chinese Motorcyclists Love Harley Davidson
Selling Clothing Buttons Online Can Really Make Some Good Money
There Are Too Much Light Pollution Over at Hong Kong Apple Stores
Amazon is the First Foreign Tech Company to Offer Paid Android apps in China