From smartphone parts to baby formula, the supply chain shortage affects industries in every corner of the world — including inside Apple’s walled garden. A recent report from a Korean trade paper indicates Apple is facing some challenges in securing a supplier for the iPhone 14’s front-facing camera, leading it to opt for a more expensive solution than it’s used on past phones.
According to Korea IT News, Apple has opted for LG Innotek’s components for its front-facing selfie camera rather than an unnamed Chinese company and Japan’s Sharp, its usual partners.
The article states that LG Innotek is currently preparing for “mass production of the iPhone 14 front camera.” LG Innotek also gets bragging rights for being the first South Korean manufacturer to supply this particular component to Apple.
Apple originally planned to partner with LG Innotek for the next generation iPhone 15. But with the deadline for the launch of the iPhone 14 fast approaching, the company has shifted gears to move “the schedule forward hurriedly.”
Korea IT News added that “it is understood that there had been quality problems from Chinese camera manufacturers during the quality tests,” which has led to delays. A similar delay has also befallen Chinese display manufacturer Beijing Oriental Electronics (BOE), which may lose its contract for the iPhone 14 after reportedly altering the design of the iPhone 13’s display to increase the yield rate.
The change in suppliers will affect component prices, too. While the front camera is typically one-third of the price of the rear-facing primary camera, the addition of features like autofocus has upped the cost of the camera about three times when compared to previous models.
We can’t say how much of that price jump will be passed on to consumers yet.
Japan’s Sharp is still involved in manufacturing the iPhone 14’s front-facing camera. But it sounds like it’ll be coupled with the hardware and capabilities of LG Innotek. Also of note is that LG Innotek makes the optical parts of the camera in-house rather than relying on third-party suppliers.
While this news is centered on the parts-making industry overseas and how they’re pivoting to deal with the current supply chain bottleneck, it’s also a story of companies attempting to meet rapid demand. But it’s a wonder if that demand would be so pressing were it not for the expectation that Apple will launch the next iPhone in the fall, just as it has in the last handful of years.