Since inception, Apple’s products have born the phrase “Designed by Apple in Cupertino.” But the products themselves are generally assembled in China to Apple’s specs.
The company’s foreign manufacturing came under fire during Trump’s campaign, and since taking office, the prospect of a trade war with China has had Apple’s stock sliding. There’s a tiny chance that the end result might be entirely what Trump wanted: moving manufacturing back to the US.
A report from Nikkei Asian Review suggests that Apple is exploring what it would take to move iPhone production stateside. “Apple asked both Foxconn and Pegatron, the two iPhone assemblers, in June to look into making iPhones in the U.S.,” a source told Nikkei. “Foxconn complied, while Pegatron declined to formulate such a plan due to cost concerns.”
Apple investigating what it would take to move production does not, under any circumstances, mean that Apple is planning on doing that. Conducting a feasibility study is a sound political move given the circumstances: if Trump is serious about imposing tariffs on imported electronics, Apple will fight the move tooth and nail.
Having a thorough study showing that it’s impossible would be good ammunition for Apple in the fight against lawmakers, but also in the battle for public approval. Given how bitter the fight over iPhone encryption was, you can’t fault Apple for taking out some insurance measures.
However, there’s also a faint possibility that American production could be economically sustainable in the future. Apple has been steadily mechanizing the assembly line for iPhones, and the fewer workers it takes to make a phone, the easier it will be to assemble in the US.
According to Nikkei, that’s not going to happen. One source apparently claimed that moving production to the US would cause the cost to double, which would unacceptably squeeze Apple’s famously tremendous margins.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.