Apple set an all-time iPhone weekend sales record when the iPhone 5 launched last weekend and sold over 5 million units. While some analysts were expecting a slightly higher figure, remember that that tally doesn’t include the boatload of pre-orders that hadn’t yet been delivered by that weekend. Further, a number of reports indicated that the inventory available at non-Apple retail store outlets like Best Buy and Radio Shack were anemically low.
And, keeping the “iPhone sales could have been higher” narrative going, there were also reports that initial supply was perhaps lower than anticipated due to lower yields on iPhone 5 display shipments coming from Sharp.
Back in early September, we reported that Sharp had initially planed to begin shipping iPhone screens to Apple by the end of August, only to have that date pushed back as a result of manufacturing difficulties.
But now, one week after the iPhone 5 was launched, Sharp has reportedly gotten those manufacturing problems under control, with an executive indicating that the company is now churning out “adequate volumes” of displays.
Sharp, the source said, was struggling to improve low production yields, raising the question of whether Apple would be prepared to sweeten financial incentives to secure an acceleration of production.
“The iPhone 5’s 4-inch low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS) touch-panel display with in-panel switching (IPS) is exceptionally difficult to produce at high yields,” Deutsche Securities analyst Yasuo Nakane said in a report on Sept 14.
Nakane estimates iPhone screen capacity at Japan Display and LG Display at eight million a month each, and at six million at Sharp. Displays for Apple’s first lot of new iPhones likely came from only LG and Japan Display, Nakane added.
If you haven’t yet had the opportunity, the iPhone 5 is remarkably thinner than the iPhone 4S model, so much so that it almost feels like a child’s toy given how light it is. Apple was able to created such a markedly thinner device because the iPhone 5 utilizes in-cell touch technology whereby the devices touch sensors are integrated right onto the LCD, thereby negating the need for a separate touchscreen layer. And of course, with any new technology comes some growing pains, especially when making something complex and thin even thinner.