No, your next iPhone’s chip won’t be ‘Made in America’
Welcome to our weekend Apple Breakfast column, which includes all the Apple news you missed this week in a handy bite-sized summary. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes great with a morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s cool if you also want to read it during lunch or dinner.
When the chips are down
When he was running for office in early 2016, Donald Trump promised to “get Apple to build their damn computers and stuff in this country instead of other countries.” This vague, half-formed plan was widely derided because it seemed so impractical: You can’t just tear up a complex overseas supply chain and start from scratch in an area with almost none of the required skills and infrastructure. But at least publicly, Apple received the idea politely.
Perhaps looking for patriotic cover against accusations of left-wing bias — the biggest company in the world can’t afford to alienate half its home market — Apple is very keen on the idea of building some hardware in the USA Despite Trump’s comments, the company was already making one of its “damn computers” on American soil: the Mac Pro, proudly manufactured at a factory in Austin, Texas. But it’s important to emphasize that the Mac Pro is a niche product made in small numbers, which is why it’s easier to build at home than, say, the iPhone.
Equally limited in scope is this week’s announcement that supplier TSMC (which is based in Taiwan) will make Apple chips at a plant in Arizona. Again, we are not talking about manufacturing actual Apple products, but only one component. But it’s something. TSMC makes chips for iPhones, iPads, Macs, Apple Watches, Apple TVs and, well, pretty much everything Apple sells, so the company can start declaring that some of these devices are “(Partly) Made in America.”
But not yet. Because the first caveat to this positive-sounding story is the time frame. The plant won’t open until 2024, which of course excludes the initial runs of the iPhone 15, the Apple Watch Series 9 and the next generation of Macs and iPads. TSMC and Apple rushed to get the news out there, but the ramifications of the move are still some way off.
Even when the plant is up and running, it won’t make all the chips Apple uses; it simply won’t have the capacity. It also won’t be set up for the 3nm manufacturing process the company is expected to switch to in 2023. If the plant runs at either 5pm or 4pm, the plant will have to focus, at least initially, on obsolete chips that aren’t nearly as important. as a new A-series CPU. If you end up buying an iPhone 13 or 14 in 2024, you might find that its processor was built in Arizona, but that’s unlikely to apply to an iPhone 15 or 16. And it’s more likely that the plant fewer chips for a small number of Apple Watches and Apple TVs.
Ultimately, the problem with Apple’s “Made in America” plans is that the company isn’t really motivated to bring its manufacturing home, and won’t benefit from it in any practical sense. Doing most of the manufacturing in China, Vietnam, and India makes sense because labor is cheaper in those countries, labor laws tend to be less favorable to workers, and existing factories are set up to produce technological products at scale. Apple didn’t set up a complex international supply chain for the fun of it; rather, each link in the chain is the optimal choice for legal, economic, talent or tax reasons. Moving any part of it to the US would mean higher costs and lower profits – and likely higher prices for consumers. What Apple really wants is good PR about creating jobs and making chips in the US. The Arizona plant has already reached that news and should deliver the work. But if people reading these stories think that the iPhone 15 will be powered by a chip made in the US, they are sadly mistaken.
Of course, the Arizona plant could be the start of a massive shift. It’s possible that financial incentives promised by successive administrations (including the CHIPS Act signed into law in August) will mean it makes sense for Apple to move significant parts of its supply chain back to the US. But that will happen if and when it favors Apple, and not a moment sooner.
Trending: Top stories of the week
The Mac fell short of expectations, but still blew us away in 2022, reckons Jason Snell.
Apple maybe actually be doomed if Tim Cook can’t solve his biggest iPhone problem.
We can see 5 reasons why you would update to iOS 16.2 immediately.
To beat Google in the speaker warApple must deploy its secret mini-weapon.
Apple has updated its pricing tiers, meaning iOS apps can now cost as little as 29 cents, or as much as $10,000.
appeal used illegal tactics to keep retail workers from unionizing, according to the National Labor Relations Board.
Apple Music’s latest feature is perfect for you holiday karaoke parties.
One simple trick made Safari Michael Simon’s go to Mac browser again.
The rumor mill
Apple is reportedly working on a folding screen – but it is will not be an iPhone.
The highly anticipated Apple Car Project just got a lot less ambitious – and even more retarded, according to reports.
And while we’re pessimistic, Apple’s mixed-reality headset may arrive later than we thought.
Podcast of the week
In the latest episode of the Macworld Podcast we go over some of the highlights and lowlights for Apple in 2022.
You can see every episode of the Macworld Podcast on Spotify, Soundcloud, the Podcasts app or our own website.
Software updates, bugs and issues
Apple has brought end-to-end encryption to almost every iCloud service, including backups.
After a year in limbo, Apple quietly killed off its controversial CSAM photo scanning function.
Google Chrome now use less battery and run smoother on your Mac.
iOS 16.2, which was delivered to developers this week and may have launched to the public by the time you read this, brings Apple Music Sing and the Freeform app.
But why does Apple’s latest music feature have such high system requirements?
And the release of macOS Ventura 13.1 appears to be imminent.
And with that we are done for this week. If you want to receive regular summaries, sign up for our newsletters. You can also follow us on Twitter for breaking news stories. See you next Saturday, enjoy the rest of your weekend, and stay Appley.