iPhone 5S may face stock issues at launch, due to poor fingerprint sensor yields

July 16, 2013

iPhone 5S, iOS 7 popping up in developer's logsThe iPhone 5S is rumored to face certain stock issues at launch, caused by current poor fingerprint sensor yields.

The report comes from the Taiwan-based publication DigiTimes, a source that hasn’t been always accurate about iPhone-related rumors in the past.

According to “industry sources” the seventh-generation iPhone – currently known as the iPhone 5S – will launch at some point in September, but Apple may not have enough stock to go around at launch due to issues with certain components.

The iPhone maker is said to experience “poor yields of fingerprint-recognition chips and LCD driver ICs.” Apparently the production for such components has been delayed – production should have started at the end of June or early July but has been pushed back to the end of July.

While Apple has not confirmed that it will bring fingerprint reading technology to the iPhone, a variety of rumors have suggested that the new iOS smartphone will have such a feature on board. Apple competitors are also rumored to include similar technology in future Android high-end devices.

During the WWDC 2013 keynote, when the company unveiled iOS 7, the mobile OS version that will power the iPhone 5S and other compatible devices, a fingerprint reading feature was not mentioned or demoed on stage.

At the same time, DigiTimes reminds us that Apple purchased AhthenTec for $356 million last July, with the company being behind the fingerprint tech expected to be used in the next-gen iOS flagship smartphone.

Furthermore, existing patents reveal that Apple is interested in this particular technology for mobile devices.

Back in April, Apple posted a job listing for a software engineer to join the AuthenTec team. Later that month, an analyst suggested that production issues will affect the launch of several iOS devices this year, including the iPhone 5S, the cheaper iPhone and the second-gen iPad mini. At the time, the finger was pointed (no pun intended) to issues with the fingerprint sensor, but these reports were never confirmed by Apple. However, Reuters posted a similar report indicating that there may have been certain issues with the coating of fingerprint sensors for the iPhone 5S.

Because of rumored issues with the fingerprint recognition chip, Apple may have to miss out on as many as three million iPhone 5S sales in the third quarter of the year, at least assuming that today’s report from Taiwan is accurate.

Historically, iPhone launches have been quite successful for Apple, with the Cupertino-based company selling four million iPhone 4S units and over five million iPhone 5 units during their launches in fall 2011, and fall 2012, respectively.

The same DigiTimes sources apparently estimate that the company will ship around 30 million iPhones in the Christmas quarter. The iPhone mix will include the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S. Interestingly, the publication doesn’t say anything about the cheaper iPhone model that’s also rumored to launch this fall, and which will likely be part of the mix above.

A different analyst said in a note from investors that Apple is going to start production later this month, for both the iPhone 5S and the new cheaper iPhone. AllThingsD reported that the company has “production plans at 25 million to 30 million units, split pretty much evenly across the 5S and its new lower-cost sibling,” according to the analyst. Components issues have apparently not been mentioned in said report.

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