Some iPhone users will start seeing a new country name engraved on the back of their devices.
Apple this week said it will begin manufacturing its new iPhone 14 models in India instead of China, marking one of the company’s most significant detours away from the country amid an industry re-evaluation of relationships with Chinese supply chains.
“The new iPhone 14 lineup introduces groundbreaking new technologies and important safety capabilities,” Apple said in a statement first seen by CNBC. “We’re excited to be manufacturing iPhone 14 in India.” Foxconn, one of Apple’s major assemblers, will reportedly ship the devices out of a facility near the southern city of Chennai.
Though Apple previously assembled some devices like its 2017 SE model in India, a JP Morgan report cited by CBS News claims only about 5% of the company’s total products are currently assembled there. Now, thanks in part to the announced change, the share of devices assembled in India is expected to total around 25% by 2025.
Still, the move to India has less to do with the South Asian market in particular and much more to do with simmering geopolitical sword rattling taking place between the U.S. and China. For context, Apple didn’t even crack the top six smartphone makers in India by market share in Q1, according to Counterpoint Research. Even in the high-end premium market, Apple still trailed behind Samsung.
At the same time, Apple’s drawn increased scrutiny in recent years for its deep ties to Chinese manufacturing and alleged double standards when it comes to moral business practices in China versus its home country.
For years, critics and workers assembling Apple products in China have criticized the company for its alleged role in facilitating treacherous working conditions. More recently, investigations from The New York Times and others drew renewed scrutiny over the ways it stores data in China and how it allegedly works hand-in-hand with the government to proactively remove politically sensitive apps from its App Store. China also happens to be the world’s largest smartphone market and one of Apple’s fastest growing regions for sales, factors complicating its assembly decisions even further.
Apple did not respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.
Apple’s following in the footsteps of other larger U.S. tech firms with its slight move away from China. Google, one of the iPhone maker’s top smartphone rivals, started moving its Pixel phone production out of China back in 2019. Other major U.S. tech companies have taken even larger strides to distance themselves from the country. Yahoo announced it finally terminated the remainder of its operations in China last year. LinkedIn, which operated in China for seven years, similarly announced its departure, though they did say they would launch a separate, similar app just for the Chinese market.
Broadly, Apple’s iPhone assembly reorientation comes as the U.S. and a host of other countries continue efforts to lessen their dependence on Chinese supply chains. These nationwide pivots away from Chinese supply chains heated up during President Donald Trump’s administration when he called on major U.S. firms to, “immediately start looking for an alternative to China,” and ramped up even further during the pandemic-fueled semiconductor shortage. Though some of the Trumpish blustering rhetoric concerning China has died down, the actual larger supply chain reorientation has largely continued on unchanged.
That larger reorientation also affects the U.S. tech goods en route to China. Earlier this month the Biden Administration reportedly instructed chip-making giants Nvidia and AMD to restrict exports of certain advanced AI chips to China. And if recent congressional testimonies are any guide, China-tinged fear-mongering among U.S. lawmakers is higher than ever, meaning calls, justified or not, to pull further away from Chinese manufacturers likely won’t let up anytime soon