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Apple Watch production delayed as engineers struggle with quality issues

TAIPEI – Production of the upcoming Apple Watch has been largely delayed due to the complicated designs of the new smartwatch, Nikkei Asia has learned.

Manufacturers of the Apple Watch 7, as the device is expected to be called, started on a small scale last week, but faced critical challenges in achieving satisfactory production performance, said several people familiar with the situation.

Three sources said that the current disappointing production quality can be attributed to the complexity of the design, which is significantly different from previous generations of the watch, and the fitters found problems when assembling electronics modules, components and monitors.

As a result, production of the new watch has been temporarily halted as Apple and its suppliers try to fix the problems and further certify the designs before going into mass production, four people said.

The next Apple Watch comes with new features such as blood pressure measurement, they said, which means that production involves mounting a larger number of components in a body of similar size. The new product must also meet the requirements for water resistance, which further increases the design and production challenges, the people said.

“All installers face similar problems in achieving satisfactory production performance based on current industrial design,”

; said one of the people with direct knowledge of the case to Nikkei Asia.

Apple has also asked component vendors to delay some shipments to installers, sources said.

The company has revised the popular smartwatch and the interior, including the position of various modules, differs from previous generations of the product, the people said.

However, interruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic have made it difficult for Apple and its suppliers to travel back and forth to confirm the new specifications, which has made it difficult to detect design difficulties before test production begins, two people said.

“Apple and its suppliers work around the clock to solve the problems, but at the moment it is difficult to say when mass production can begin,” added one person. Apple previously planned to put the Apple Watch 7 into mass production around mid-September, said another person, and the engineering team is working to minimize delays.

Apple is scheduled to unveil the new watch along with the latest iPhones in the coming weeks. The current problems could affect the US company’s shipping plans after the unveiling, the people said.

Apple Watch, first released in 2015, is one of the fastest growing products for the California-based technology company. New features such as electrocardiography, sleep tracking and the ability to unlock iPhones while wearing a mask have helped increase the gadget’s popularity. Apple is the world’s largest smartwatch manufacturer and delivered 36 million Apple watches last year, with an annual growth of 39%, according to research company IDC.

In addition to the Apple Watch and iPhones, Apple will introduce new AirPods, iPads and MacBooks in the second half of 2021.

Apple declined to comment.

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