Five problems Apple will have to tackle if it wants to get its iPhone 8 out on time

The Apple iPhone 8 is reportedly plagued by a number of production problems, as it races against time to introduce a device incorporating cutting edge technologies. Although dummy devices and renders based on leaked CAD schematics have given consumers an idea of the device, some of the exact details are still unknown. For example, we still can't tell if the device will ship with wireless charging enabled, or where the fingerprint scanner will be located on the device... if it has one.

According to a report by Fast Company, there is a sense of panic at Apple, and it is a tense time for iPhone engineers and designers. Apparently there are software problems which, if not resolved quickly, will lead to production and delivery delays in the iPhone 8. In fact, the software issues could result in the phone shipping with some features disabled, an approach that Apple has taken in the past. So here are five problems that Apple is said to be facing with tenth anniversary iPhone 8:

5. OLED Screens: According to a report by the Motley Fool, the organic light emitting diode (OLED) panel expected to be on the iPhone 8 may be a major bottleneck. Apple has placed an order of 70 million units from Samsung, but Samsung will only be able to provide about 4 million panels by the time Apple launches the device, which is expected to be in September. Samsung is expected to be the major, if not the sole supplier of OLED panels to Apple. No other manufacturer can provide the number of panels that Apple requires, at least not in 2017.

Image: iDrop News

Image: iDrop News

Even though Apple may launch variants in the lineup without OLED panels, Apple consumers have consistently demonstrated a high demand for the top of the line smartphone. The strongest demand is seen just after the phone is launched, and considering the present state of the industry, there are simply not enough OLED displays available for all the consumers willing to purchase the device.  Samsung produces most of the OLED displays in the world, and is ramping up capacity by building the world's biggest OLED production plant in South Korea.

4. 3D NAND Flash Chips: According to a report by Digitimes, Apple is suffering from a global shortage in supple of NAND flash memory chips. The supply of 3D NAND flash memory chips is not expected to stabilse till 2018. The main suppliers of these chips to Apple, SK Hynix and Toshiba have both suffered from a yield rate that was lower than expected. Apple purchases up to 18 percent of the total supply of NAND flash chips.

NAND Flash Memory.

NAND Flash Memory.

The shortage of the chips are so acute, that Apple had to knock on the doors of arch rival Samsung, to make up for the shortfall in the supply of the chips. Samsung has a relatively stable supply of 3D NAND chips, and has recently boosted its production capabilities. However, the demand of 3D NAND chips by Apple for the production run of the iPhone 8 is expected to increase, with Apple buying a bigger portion of the global supply.

3. 3D Face Scanning cameras: report in Bloomberg claims that Apple is reportedly testing a 3D face recognition system to unlock the phone. A new 3D sensor will allow Apple users to unlock the phone, make purchases and launch applications secured by an authentication mechanism. The 3D sensor will be on the front of the phone, and is designed to be fast and accurate. The problems that Apple is facing is with the software and not the hardware.

Credit: Huawei.

Credit: Huawei.

According to a report in Fast Company, Apple engineers are having problems to get the 3D face sensor to work properly. The design team at Apple hopes to finish work on the software in time for the launch, but if this does not happen, the phone is likely to be shipped with the components lying dormant on the system. A spokesperson for the company has indicated that the feature is still in development, and may not even make it to the iPhone 8, which means Apple cannot do away with the fingerprint sensor this year.

2. Fingerprint scanners: The edge to edge display of the iPhone 8 raises a big question on the location of the fingerprint sensor. The Samsung Galaxy S8 tried to include an under display fingerprint scanner, but was not able to do so. This resulted in an awkwardly placed fingerprint scanner on the back. As per a report by Apple Insider, Apple is having problems getting the fingerprint scanner integrated with the OLED sensor to work.

LG Innotek

LG Innotek underglass fingerprint sensor

There are three approaches Apple is apparently exploring to fix the issue. The leaked renders do not show any space for the fingerprint scanner on the back, and that approach has been ruled out by Apple. The glass on top of the fingerprint sensor could be made thinner, a "film" sensor could be integrated on top of the display, or a pinhole could be created through the glass for an ultrasonic or optical sensor. The abnormally large power button can also house the fingerprint scanner, an approach used by Sony.

1. Wireless charging: The wireless charging capabilities of the iPhone 8 are not apparent from the renders of the device, but Analysts had predicted that the feature was making its way to the 2017 version of the smartphone. At a shareholder meeting the Wistron chief let it slip that the iPhone 8 will have wireless charging capabilities. Wistron is an assembler for Apple. However, Apple engineers are reportedly having problems getting the wireless charging to work as well.

Image: Concept by Handy Abovergleich

Image: Concept by Handy Abovergleich

The wireless charging module is another component on the iPhone 8 that the Apple team cannot get to work properly. The device may ship with dormant wireless charging capabilities, an approach Apple may take with the 3D face scanner as well. Apparently, the wireless charging modules are overheating, according to a report by Nikkei Asian Review. The report goes on to catalogue other supply chain problems with the iPhone, including printed circuit boards.

Apple seems to be having a lot of issues with integrating new features into the new iPhone. 2017 is the tenth year after the release of the original iPhone, and the consumers expect a device that will be as revolutionary as the original. A report from Barrons suggests that the phone might be delayed by several weeks. Only the top of the line model is expected to be delayed, and consumers are expected to be able to pick up other devices in the lineup soon after the launch, which is expected in September.


Published Date: Jul 19, 2017 01:51 pm | Updated Date: Jul 19, 2017 01:51 pm