TrueDepth Camera Production Issues Plague iPhone X Supply

You might just have to be extremely lucky to get your hands on an iPhone X this year — at least, if several new reports are any indication.

Taipei-based analyst Jeff Pu of Yuanta Investment Consulting has revised his iPhone X production forecast — and it’s not looking good for many prospective buyers. Specifically, Pu cut his forecast from a predicted 40 million units shipped this year down to 36 million in a new investment note distributed to clients on Thursday.

Back in September, renowned analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities made a similar prediction. While he estimated that Apple would ship 40 million iPhone X units in 2017, he added that supply won’t be able to fully meet the high demand until 2018. So while it won’t be impossible to purchase an iPhone X this year, it’s going to be a lot harder than previous years.

To those who have been following the iPhone X for some time, that’s not exactly news. We’ve heard for months about a “multitude of production issues” and severe supply shortages plaguing the device’s launch. But as for why, Apple’s new TrueDepth Camera might be to blame.

Reportedly, Apple suppliers are still struggling to perfect the manufacturing process of the company’s new high-tech camera module, a tech executive familiar with the iPhone X’s production told Nikkei Asian Review on Thursday. Particularly, suppliers are running into trouble with the TrueDepth’s dot projector system and 3D sensors. Those production woes were first highlighted by Kuo a few weeks ago.

Kuo said that it’s taking more time to assemble the TrueDepth’s infrared dot projector (codenamed “Romeo”) than the infrared camera that analyzes the dot pattern (which is, fittingly, codenamed “Juliet”). Together, these two modules allow Face ID to create and analyze a precise depth map of a face — allowing it heightened security over Touch ID and other facial recognition systems.

The technology behind the TrueDepth system is undeniably cutting-edge. Previously, Kuo said that the tech that makes the facial recognition platform work is “years ahead” of Apple’s competition. He added that Android makers would need two and a half years to develop similar technology to make such a platform feasible.

The iPhone X is likely the most highly anticipated smartphone slated to launch this year. And it represents the largest leap forward for Apple’s flagship device in years. It’s expected to spur an “upgrade super-cycle” for Apple, that is, once supply can meet demand.

Despite supply issues, Pu said that the iPhone X will enter mass production in mid-October. It will begin shipping out from China to launch countries in the next week. The iPhone X will become available for pre-order on Oct. 27, just about two weeks from today, and the device will officially launch the following Friday: Nov. 3.

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