A reporter from the Shanghai Evening Post pretended to be a new worker at the Foxconn Tai Yuan factory to get an insider's look at how the factory is going to make the next iPhone 5. He spent a total of 10 days inside and spilled the undercover story of what goes on in the making of the next iPhone.
According to the Shanghai Evening Post, the reporter-cum-Foxconn worker spent the first 7 days in a grueling training orientation—which included harrowing tales of filthy and smelly dorms, interrogations, force-agreeing to sign waivers, obeying commands and more. He eventually gains access to the factory floor and describes the top security area at the entrance of the room:
We are told that if anyone enter or exit the metal detector door and found carrying any metallic stuff on your body such as belt buckle, ear rings, cameras, handset, mp3 players, the alarm will sound and you will be fired on the spot. One of my room mate told me that his friend has been fired because he carried an USB charging cable.
It's serious business. In fact, the supervisors inside the factory constantly remind the workers that it's a privilege to build the iPhone 5, motivating them by showing off a new part and saying things like "this is the new unleashed iPhone 5 back plate, you should be honored having the chance to produce it". But the work is terribly, horribly, awfully mundane.
The journo worker's responsibility was to mark an iPhone 5's backplate at 4 position points with an oil-based paint pen and put it back on the belt—if that sounds easy, it's not because an iPhone 5 backplate ran through the belt in front of him every 3 seconds, so everything had to be completed swiftly. Plus, he worked from midnight to 6:00 AM nonstop, on his estimates the hidden journalist could finish 3,000 iPhone 5 backplates per shift. He explains the rest of the production lines:
There are total 4 production lines in charge of this process, 12 workers in every line. Each line can produce 36,000 iPhone 5 back plates in half a day, this is scary… I finally stopped working at 7 a.m. We were asked to gather again after work. The supervisor shout out loud in front of us: "Who wants to rest early at 5 a.m !? We are all here to earn money! Let's work harder!" I was thinking who on earth wants to work two extra hours overtime for only mere 27 yuan (USD$4)
That's the reality of making an iPhone (and any uber-popular gadget, really) in 2012. We get to enjoy the future at the cost of factory workers fighting through the mundane, getting scolded for making mistakes and being forced to maintain insane production numbers. Read more about the insider at Foxconn at MIC Gadget, who translated and summarized the report. [Shanghai Evening Post (translated) via MIC Gadget]