Two industry executives in the know said Foxconn’s facility in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, has started the ‘new product introduction’ (NPI) process for the upcoming iPhone 15, with mass production set to begin closer to the launch date.
The move is part of Apple’s strategy to diversify its manufacturing operations from out of China, with India playing a big part in the company’s plans, they added.
Trial production of the iPhone 15 started in China in June at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou factory, experts said. Around the same time, components started coming into India at Foxconn’s facilities for the trial production of the device.
The country already accounts for 7% of Apple’s global production from less than 1% prior to the start of the government production-linked scheme (PLI) for smartphones in 2021.
One of the industry executives quoted above said Foxconn imported parts for around 100 units of the upcoming iPhone in June, which included the display assembly, camera sensors, and the likes. The executive said this indicated that the Tamil Nadu plant is in the process of doing trial runs before starting mass production.
Another executive also confirmed that trial production has already started. “Provided Apple will be exporting batches of iPhone 15 from India right after the launch, it is all but likely that the NPI process has already begun,” the executive said.
Apple had also started production of the earlier iPhone 14 in India just a few weeks after it began in China, with industry analysts then claiming that the iPhone 15’s India manufacturing could start simultaneously with China.
For now, it is likely that Foxconn will be the only contract manufacturer to start iPhone 15 production in India. Pegatron – another Apple vendor – will likely be making the iPhone 15 Plus, but at a later stage, trial runs for which are yet to begin, sources said. Wistron – being taken over by the Tatas – is Apple’s third contract manufacturer in India.
“Foxconn usually gets the first preference for a new product because of its capabilities and how deeply it is integrated in the Apple supply chain,” the second executive cited above said. The person added that different contract manufacturers are given different products to manufacture. If Foxconn is making iPhone 15 in India, another manufacturer will make the iPhone 15 Plus.
No clarity on quantum of production
That said, there is presently no clarity on the quantum of production that will happen in India. Bank of America had said in a report in June that Apple could shift at least 18% of its global iPhone production to India by FY2025 from 7% in FY23, adding that the share may increase further if the large scale acts as an incentive for its vendors to also expand in India.
Foxconn and Wistron are among the two global companies that have received the incentives promised under the Rs 38,000-crore PLI scheme for large-scale electronics, while other global companies like Samsung are yet to receive the sops.
The Taiwanese contract manufacturer has been cleared by the empowered committee to receive Rs 357.17 crore as incentive for the period of August 2021-March 2022 based on its incremental investments and sales figures, ET had reported.
This comes on the back of bumper exports of iPhones from India, which surged four times on-year to cross $5 billion in FY23.
In fact, smartphones, with a major contribution from iPhones, are driving electronics exports from India. Apple iPhone exports crossed Rs 20,000 crore, in Q1FY24, or roughly half of what it had achieved in FY23, making up 35% of all electronics exports and 66% of mobile phone exports. Foxconn, Wistron, and Pegatron have committed exports of Rs 61,000 crore in FY24 or the third year of the PLI scheme.
Currently, Apple’s three suppliers — Foxconn, Pegatron, and Wistron — make the iPhone 12, iPhone 13, and iPhone 14 models in their plants in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Going forward, Foxconn is expected to make the iPhone 15, while Pegatron will be starting production of iPhone 15 Plus.
Meanwhile, the Wistron plant, now being run by Tata executives, is also undertaking an NPI process for Apple. But sources said it is likely to make the iPhone 14 Plus.
“Apple keeps moving production of its products from one manufacturer to another. If Foxconn is making the iPhone 14, then Wistron will be making the iPhone 14 Plus. They also move around the capital equipment between facilities,” the second executive quoted above said.