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Apple allows inside look into Foxconn iPad factory

Journalist Rob Schmitz, who exposed Mike Daisey's fabrications and exaggerations of Apple's Chinese suppliers, has produced an inside look at how Apple's iPad gets built in China for American Public Media's Marketplace.

Schmitz has published a series of reports on Marketplace detailing factory conditions in China and interviewing both workers and their supervisors.

Since unraveling Daisey's fictionalized portrayal of conditions among Apple suppliers last month, Schmitz has detailed his own findings in China, with unprecedented access granted by Apple and Foxconn.

In a new video tour posted today, Schmitz revealed an exclusive look into how iPads are built and tested.

"The first misconception I had about Foxconn’s Longhua facility in the city of Shenzhen was that I’ve always called it a ‘factory’ — technically, it is," Schmitz wrote. "But after you enter the gates and walk around, you quickly realize that it’s also a city — 240,000 people work here. Nearly 50,000 of them live on campus in shared dorm rooms.

"There’s a main drag lined on both sides with fast-food restaurants, banks, cafes, grocery stores, a wedding photo shop, and an automated library. There are basketball courts, tennis courts, a gym, two enormous swimming pools, and a bright green astroturf soccer stadium smack-dab in the middle of campus. There’s a radio station — Voice of Foxconn — and a television news station. Longhua even has its own fire department, located right on main street."

Schmitz describes working conditions that involve tedious work and long hours, but characterizes reports of terrible sweatshop conditions as being sensationalized fiction.

"There have been poisoned workers, and Apple’s own audits have caught underage workers at factories making Apple products, but here’s another fact that also might be missing from this whole conversation: From what we know these are rare occurrences in Apple’s supply chain. Life at factories that make Apple products is not all hunky-dory, but the truth is much more complicated than how Daisey’s portrayed the situation," he wrote.

Jobs on China in 2010

In the summer of 2010, Steve Jobs responded similarly when asked by Kara Swisher of the Wall Street Journal about factory conditions in Apple's Chinese suppliers.

Apple's Chief Executive Steve Jobs at the 2010 D8 Conference. Photo credit Engadget

"We are on top of this," Jobs said. "We look at everything at these companies. I can tell you a few things that we know. And we are all over this. Foxconn is not a sweatshop.

"It's a factory, but my gosh, they have restaurants and movie theaters, but it's a factory. But they've had some suicides and attempted suicides, and they have 400,000 people there. The rate is under what the US rate is, but it's still troubling."

The suicide rate at Foxconn's plant reached 13 out of 400,000 employees in the first half of 2010, less than the U.S. rate of 11 per 100,000.