With the release of the iPhone 5 today, we're looking at plastics and design-related angles. Here's the first: another inside account of Apple Inc.'s megasupplier Foxconn International. A reporter at the Shanghai Evening Post recently managed to get a job, working undercover, at a Foxconn feactory that was making the iPhone 5. He spent 10 days there, and reported on the working conditions. Geek.com has a summary of the story today, "Journalist goes undercover making the iPhone 5 at Foxconn." "The work is clearly very stressful and the pay is terrible," Geek.com reports. "To release stress lots of Foxconn workers apparently gather in the playground at weekends and dance and shout. It sounds like a depressing situation to be in even before entering the factory, but then things only seem to get worse." This isn't the first peek inside the controversial Apple supplier. Plastics Blog readers will remember that John Biggs of TechCrunch.com wrote about his visit to the company's Foxconn City factory in Shenzhen, China, in November. Then there was the controversial report by Mike Daisey, later retracted by NPR's "This American Life," that focused on Apple and Foxconn. Although conditions at Foxconn are improving ("Apple and Foxconn see the light"), it's clear that journalists and critics are continuing to keep a close eye on Apple's supply chain. Meanwhile, on the design side, we're seeing reports that the iPhone 5 is made of aluminum and glass. We did a double-take on that -- no plastic? But then we remembered that the iPhone 4 also featured a front and back made of aluminosilcate glass, "chemically strengthened to be 30 times harder than plastic, more scratch resistant and more durable than ever." Of course everyone we knows runs out and buys a plastic cover and plastic fiilm to protect their iPhone. So even if the iPhone 5 design is light on plastics, that's not entirely new. Also on the plastics and design side, we see that Apple has redesigned the earbuds for the iPhone 5, which they're now calling EarPods. Apple says they scanned the ears of 600 people and redesigned the shape of the earbud so it would fit better, even during exercise. They also improved the acoustics: "... Apple acousticians re-engineered an earbud speaker diaphragm with both rigid and flexible materials to minimize sound loss and maximize sound output. Adding to the superior audio quality are strategically placed acoustic vents. The most notable of these vents is the one located in the stem of each EarPod. It allows air inside the stem, which acts as an acoustic chamber, to flow out. So you hear deeper, richer bass tones.." So that's good news for iPhone users who like to get sweaty while they're working out, listening to heavy metal. (Thanks to Plastics News staff reporter Rhoda Miel, who covers the design beat -- among others -- for her help on today's post.)
Another look inside Foxconn, and the iPhone 5
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