New Apple iPhone 5 Raises Bar for Smartphones, Keeps It Low on Labor (AAPL)

Posted by · September 13, 2012 9:18 am

As Apple CEO Tim Cook took to that San Francisco stage to unveil the highly anticipated iPhone 5, many publications were quick to tout the new device as having yet again raised iPhone 5 (courtesy medithIT via flickr)the bar for all smartphones. That is, for those few remaining devices that Apple hasn’t successfully litigated out of the market…yet.

“Apple has never been stronger,” declared Cook at one point during the two-hour event.

Sporting a newer design – namely the long-rumored 4-inch screen – and (finally) enhanced network capabilities – 4G LTE speeds – the iPhone 5 is indeed a cut above its relatively anticlimactic predecessor. And the good stuff doesn’t stop there, say many who were in attendance Wednesday morning.

iPhone 5: First Impressions

“The real shot of new energy comes from its physical redesign,” writes Max Rust in the Chicago Sun-Times. “It feels slimmer and lighter. When I held it, I involuntarily remembered that I only have two months left on my current iPhone 4 contract.”

Noting the iPhone 4S’s less-than-dramatic departure from the aesthetic appeal of the 4, Rust goes on to note how the iPhone 5’s “sensual, seductive” new look will “keep the excitement for Apple design going.”

Beyond giving it a lighter, sleeker exterior – “the most beautiful product we have ever made, bar none,” according to Cook – Apple didn’t pull any punches under the hood of the iPhone 5 either.

“The iPhone 5 features a faster chip that promises to double processing and graphics performance,” notes the San Francisco Gate’s James Temple. “In addition, it boasts a better camera and faster Wi-Fi connection.” Apple’s new smartphone will also come with a more advanced edition of Siri, the personal assistant app that made its debut on the iPhone 4S. The improvements are said allow users to summon sports scores, movie times, and even make dinner reservations without lifting a finger.

These enhancements, Apple suggests, will pave the way for “monstrous” sales numbers for the iPhone 5.

Citing the insight of industry insiders, Temple writes that sales of the new smartphone are already projected to be as high as 10 million in the first week – and over 200 million by year’s end.

“What Apple does is set the bar,” noted one analyst, reacting to the iPhone 5 debut. “They’ve forced their competitors to play catch-up.”

Apple Labor: Worst Impressions

Unfortunately, as reports continue to reveal, the competition isn’t the only one being forced to play catch-up as the iPhone 5 hits the market. Workers on the assembly lines of the infamous Foxconn facility continue to endure the minuscule wages and grueling hours that once seemed a top priority among Apple executives.

Nevertheless, as a recent interview reported by China Labor Watch reveals, Apple elected not to make improved labor conditions one of the enhancements that graced the iPhone 5.

The Foxconn worker interviewed, who wished to remain anonymous, had the following to say about the ongoing conditions at the overseas facility:

I am a current worker at Foxconn. In fact, all the reports of increasing wages and reducing working hours are deceptive. Now we are producing the iPhone 5. We 87 workers have to assemble 3,000 [devices] per day, and our leader told us that after the new iPhone goes public we would need [to] assemble 6,500 [iPhones] a day. We are now working more than 10 hours a day. There are many student workers in our production line, all around 18 years of age. They’ve been complaining and demanding to go back to school but were never allowed.

Responding to the report, one online activist group launched a petition demanding that Apple put a real effort behind its verbal commitment to maintain the “highest standards of social responsibility” in the production of its devices.

“Apple claims that it’s ending forced illegal overtime, but workers are simply required to meet the same quotas within a regular shift—meaning many have to work extra hours without any pay at all,” explains the group. “Apple claims wages are rising, but deductions for room and board have risen even more, so take-home pay has actually declined.”

In other words, nothing’s really changed.

As future iPhone 5 sales promise to further bolster Apple’s already-overflowing cash stores—the same funds tapped to pay for generous executive compensation packages and wage shady, anti-competitive legal campaigns—the company continues to pay little more than lipservice to this pressing issue.

The same issue that once showed promise of becoming a cornerstone in Tim Cook’s vision for Apple has successfully been reduced to little more than a gimmick to peddle more iPhones.

For more on the new Apple iPhone 5 . . .