The Undercover Report on How the New iPhone 5 is Made Inside FoxconnFactory

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A Chinese news agency, Shanghai Evening Post, has sent an experienced journalist to slip into the Foxconn Tai Yuan factory and pretended as a new worker, his mission is to find out how the new iPhone 5 is produced. The Chinese journalist precisely recorded his 10 days of working experience in the factory and published a dairy to disclose the inside story of manufacturing the iPhone 5.

The Tai Yuan Foxconn factory is recently well-known for it’s large-scale workers strike which took place during March. Back then the factory urgently needs 20,000 more workers because Foxconn has received orders for the production of iPhone 5. The plants needs to produce 57 million iPhone 5 for each year. Apparently, the journalist only stayed inside the Foxconn factory for 10 days due to the undesirable working conditions. He has undergone mean training during the first 7 days and finally got the chance to take part the producing of iPhone 5 on the 8th day …

UPDATE SEPT 24 – Part 1: Taiyuan Foxconn has gone strike !
UPDATE SEPT 24 – Part 2: We have got in touch with the undercover journalist.

Editor note: If you have no patience to read his orientation experience over at Foxconn, please skip to day 8 section for the detail on iPhone 5 manufacturing, that is the best part of the whole undercovered story. But we still highly recommend you to read from day one as there are many interesting inside stories about Foxconn working condition that we never heard before.

We have summarized and translated his entire diary as below:

DAY 1: Recruitment – “Good health with Citizen Identity Card”

Recruit of new workers. (Photo Credit: AP)

I have contacted the person in charge of the Human Resource who’s handling the recruitment and I was told that I can work in Foxonn as long as I’m healthy and own a citizenship identity card. When I reached the entrance of Foxconn factory, I was approached by a so-called Foxconn security guard who asked for 100-200 yuan (USD$15-28) to provide me a faster way to start working in Foxconn, but I ignored him. I was asked to fill in a form to test my current state of mentality. There are about 30 mentality questions for me to answer “Yes” or “No” of how do I feel for the past 30 days. For example one of the questions they asked: “Have you got into a state of mental trance recently ?” Finally after answering all the questions, other workers and I took a bus ride to the Taiyuan Foxconn factory.



Foxconn factory in Tai Yuan, Shanxi province in North China.

Foxconn provides basic dormitory for the workers. (Photo Credit: Daily Mail)

The first night sleeping at Foxconn dormitory is a nightmare. The whole dormitory smells like garbage when I walked in. It’s a mixed of overnight garbage smell plus dirty sweat and foam smell. Outside every room was fully piled up with uncleared trash. When I opened my wardrobe, lots of cockroaches crawl out from inside and the bedsheets that are being distributed to every new workers are full of dirts and ashes.

DAY 2: Signing Contract – “No environmental harm ?”



Briefing on new workers during the orientation.

I was having my first breakfast in Foxconn canteen on the 2nd day morning when I heard a loud scream: “Fxxk! The food sux ! Don’t expect me to work overtime !” After the shouting, the same guy whispered that he will damage the bed at the dormitory before he quits. This might explained why there’s a large hole on my wooden bed plank. We were asked to sign the employment contract right in the canteen after the breakfast. The contract has highly emphasized on 4 confidential areas that need to be kept strictly confidential, 1: All technical information, 2: Sales figures, 3: Human resource, 4: Production statistics. The contract didn’t mention much on the overtime works. Under the section of “Possible harmful effects that may cause to worker during production”, the management has asked us to tick “No” for all of them. This includes “Noise pollution” and “Toxic Pollution”, I was wondering if the production floor will caused any harmful effects while working.


The crowded canteen in Foxconn factory.

DAYS 3 to 6: Training Session – “All you need to do is OBEY”

Worker’s dormitories have been framed behind safety wire that looks like bars.
(Photo Credit: Daily Mail)

The day after signing of the contract, we are being gathered in a hall and briefed with the history of Foxconn company, policies and safety measures. During the whole conference, we are being highly emphasized on one point: “When you leave the lab, there’s no advanced technology, you only need to obey instructions.” We are being distributed with a checklist with only 13 rewards policies but over 70 penalties policies. The instructor said: “You might feel uncomfortable of how we treat you, but this is all for your own good.” After that we are asked to watch an orientation video on the Foxconn factory. When someone has asked about the suicide issues, the management staff didn’t avoid the topic but not willing to discuss too much on it. During the suicide topic discussion, someone has voiced out that the bad living environment will sure lead to more suicides. Also I have noticed that all the windows in the dormitory has been framed behind bars.

Day 7: Break Time – “Release of Stress”



Working in Foxconn might face heavy stress.

After the training session we are being arranged to start work very swiftly but it’s already night. We are only allowed to rest during the day time. After all the intensive trainings and briefings, I had a fever and terrible headache before I can even start work. I requested to visit the hospital in the factory, but there’s only one doctor on shift handling 4-5 patients at the same time. When I asked one of the nurse about how can I claim the medical checkup fees, the nurse rudely reply me: “Go and ask your boss ! “

For the past several days, I have been to many Foxconn facilities such as dormitory, canteen, bathing room, playground, gym, hospital, postal office, library and shopping street etc. Although most of them are free of charge but the facilities seriously needs improvements. For example, inside the entertainment center there are 2/3 of the arcades games are malfunction. The so-called theater room only shows a screen shot picture of a meeting room. The most interesting part is out of the whole Foxconn factory, I can’t find a single place selling beer, sitting stool and poles for hanging laundry clothes.

Over the weekends, outside at the playground, there’s a social gathering where all Foxconn workers gather and dance. The host of the party speaks through the mic: “We are all over stressed everyday and we are not allowed to shout on the production floor. Over here you can shout as loud as you want to release your stress.” One of my room mate has told me that he likes this weekly dancing party very much and he has found a girlfriend during the dance.

DAYS 8 to 10: iPhone 5 Assembling- “Do what you are told to do !”

The production line in Foxconn.

We have reached the entrance of the production floor with a warning sign that says: “TOP SECURITY AREA”. We are told that if anyone enter or exit the metal detector door and found carrying any metallic stuff on your body such as belt buckle, ear rings, cameras, handset, mp3 players, the alarm will sound and you will be fired on the spot. One of my room mate told me that his friend has been fired because he carried an USB charging cable. When I walked into the production floor after passing through the metal detector door, I heard loud sounds of machinery engines and a very dense of plastic smell. Our supervisor warned us: “Once you sit down, you only do what you are told”. The supervisor finally present us the back of the iPhone 5 and shows it to all of us and said: “This is the new unleashed iPhone 5 back plate, you should be honored having the chance to produce it”

Our line is being assigned to use masking tapes and plastic stoppers to cover up the earphone jack and the connector ports of the back plate in order to prevent the paint from being sprayed onto it on the next process. Our supervisor asked us to put on our mask and gloves and see how the seniors work on it. At 11 p.m, we went for a supper and after midnight, we started work again. I’m being assigned to mark placement points on the iPhone 5 back-plate using an oil-based paint pen. I’m being scolded many times for spilling too much oil on the markings. My roommate has being assigned to paste the masking tapes of not more than 5mm wide on the right spots that I have marked. And he has being scolded many times for pasting them too slow. Our supervisor said that these works were actually being assigned to females workers with nimber fingers, but due to too many workers have resigned lately they have no choice but to assign these jobs to male workers.

Most new employed male workers do not have nimber fingers.

An iPhone 5 back-plate run through in front of me almost every 3 seconds. I have to pickup the back-plate and marked 4 position points using the oil-based paint pen and put it back on the running belt swiftly within 3 seconds with no errors. After such repeat action for several hours, I have terrible neckache and muscle pain on my arm. A new worker who sat opposite of me gone exhausted and laid down for a short while. The supervisor has noticed him and punished him by asking him to stand at one corner for 10 minutes like the old school days. We worked non-stop from midnight to the next morning 6 a.m but were still asked to keep on working as the production line is based on running belt and no one is allowed to stop. I’m so starving and fully exhausted.

By my own calculations, I have to mark five iPhone plates every minute, at least. For every 10 hours, I have to accomplish 3,000 iPhone 5 back plates. There are total 4 production lines in charge of this process, 12 workers in every line. Each line can produce 36,000 iPhone 5 back plates in half a day, this is scary … I finally stopped working at 7 a.m. We were asked to gather again after work. The supervisor shout out loud in front of us: “Who wants to rest early at 5 a.m !? We are all here to earn money ! Let’s work harder !” I was thinking who on earth wants to work two extra hours overtime for only mere 27 yuan (USD$4) !?

Workers rushing their work flow.(Photo Credit: ABC)

On the next following day, we were all being treated the same way by our supervisors and all of us were very pissed. Every time we picked up the iPhone 5 components, we put it back on the running belt real hard and scold “fxxk” just to release our stress. One of the senior advised us to stop work on time at 5 a.m even if the supervisor ask you to over time, as this is not against the regulations. Among our batch of 36 new workers, only two workers were lucky enough to arrange work under the quality control inspection department, where they get to rest 10 minutes for every 2 hours work, unlike the rest of us who have to work non-stop for 7 straight hours. — (End of Diary)

Our Thought …

We are confounded on the diary on how bad the living condition of the Foxconn workers at the dormitory and the kind of treatment they have received. Though it’s still interesting to know the workflow of manufacturing the iPhone 5 back-plate. Although there is no guarantee of the report’s authenticity, but we still feel that all Apple fanboys should appreciate the hard work from the Chinese workers, as they have worked overtime which is certainly underpaid, just to rush out the iPhone 5 hoping to meet the scheduled of the launching date. Now we are getting even more excited after roughly knowing the factory’s production workflow of the latest iPhone 5. So what is Apple going to show us after 20 hours time ?

The original printed newspaper report on the under-covered. The published date is
on August 27th, we believe the under-covered may conducted in July.

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