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iPhone City goes into lockdown just as iPhone 14 hiring ramped up

Published May 5th, 2022 7:31AM EDT
An iPhone 13 Pro on a table next to Apple AirPods
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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A report from Asia said a few days ago that Foxconn is ramping up iPhone 13 hiring in Zhengzhou at Apple’s request. This prompted speculation that iPhone 14 production might start earlier than usual, as Apple is navigating the new COVID-19 lockdowns in the region. The iPhone 14 is Apple’s most important product launch of the year, and the company is aiming for a usual September release schedule. Pandemic restrictions might get in the way of those plans.

The report said that Zhengzhou did not have to go into lockdown like other regions in China, and Foxconn kept manufacturing iPhones and taking advantage of the increased iPhone 13 demand. On the heels of that report, news emerged from Zhengzhou that the local government decided to impose a lockdown of at least a week following another COVID-19 breakout.

iPhone City goes in lockdown

Foxconn is the world’s largest electronics manufacturer and the main assembler of iPhones. Its factories in Zhengzhou are responsible for the bulk of iPhone production. And it’s in this “iPhone City” that Foxconn planned to hire more iPhone assembly line workers. But South China Morning Post reports that Foxconn had to freeze its hiring spree in light of the new outbreak.

Zhengzhou recorded four new COVID-19 cases and 10 asymptomatic carriers. That was enough for the local government to declare a citywide lockdown that started on Wednesday. It will last at least a week, until Tuesday.

iPhone 14 Pro 3D Renders
iPhone 14 Pro 3D renders: Color concepts. Image source: Technizo Concept and LetsGoDigital

It’s unclear when Foxconn will resume its iPhone hiring process and whether the lockdown will impact the iPhone 14 production schedule and launch.

The Post echoes the previous report that said Foxconn had raised the hiring bonus for new employees. It’s offering 8,500 yuan ($1,286) to new employees, a 2,000 yuan bump over the previous bonus structure. Those plans are on hold, however.

The Zhengzhou lockdown comes several months ahead of the planned iPhone 14 launch. Apple would unveil the handset in mid-September, and the new phones would go on sale in late September. But the schedule might hinge on Foxconn’s ability to resume hiring more workers.

Will Apple delay the iPhone 14 launch?

Foxconn runs its Zhengzhou factories in a closed-loop system, where employees can only move between the factory and their dormitories within the campus.

This system allows Foxconn to maintain production, and it looks like the company hasn’t stopped manufacturing new iPhones, despite the lockdown. However, this only concerns the current iPhones in Apple’s lineup.

The lockdown might prevent Foxconn from meeting the employee quota it needs to fill the iPhone 14 production requirements. This could impact Apple’s iPhone 14 launch plans. While it’s too early to talk about a full-blown release delay like two years ago, lockdowns can still hurt iPhone 14 supply at launch.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Main
Apple iPhone 12 Pro with display turned on. Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The iPhone City in Zhengzhou is a massive undertaking. Foxconn employs more than 300,000 workers in the region. The plant in Zhengzhou Airport Economy Zone manufactures between 60% and 80% of the world’s iPhones. As a result, any large-scale COVID-19 outbreak in the region can significantly strain production.

While Foxconn might be able to ensure the safety of iPhone production, there’s another reason to worry about an iPhone 14 launch delay. The new COVID-19 restrictions also impact the logistics. Transporting components and materials into Foxconn’s facilities will take longer. Those service providers also need to go through additional safety procedures.

We’ll hear about it directly from Apple, should it decide to delay the iPhone 14 launch. Like in 2020, the June earnings report could deliver such bad news, which usually takes place in late July.

More iPhone coverage: For more iPhone news, visit our iPhone 14 guide.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.