Apple recently bought production equipment for rigid flexible printed circuit boards (RFPCBs) and is now leasing it to suppliers, hoping to secure a stable flow of parts for this fall's "iPhone 8," according to a report.
The equipment is worth "tens of millions of dollars," The Korea Herald said on Friday. It quoted an ET News source as saying one of three RFPCB suppliers — a Taiwanese company — decided to back out of the chain, forcing Apple to assist the two South Korean firms still onboard. Herald sources suggested that the Taiwanese company may have been upset by complicated production, tough quality requirements, and low profits.
Apple is said to be using RFPCBs for the new iPhone's touchscreen panel, but the technology is also reportedly harder to manufacture than regular flexible or rigid circuit boards.
Indeed Apple is allegedly searching for a replacement supplier in Korea. In the meantime the remaining partners, Interflex and Youngpoong Electronics, could split a large chunk of the 100 million RFPCB units Apple is expected to order this year.
The "iPhone 8" should sport an edge-to-edge 5.8-inch OLED screen, with a portion of that being dedicated to a virtual button replacing a physical one. It may also feature technologies like a rear-facing laser.