Early complaints that the new iPhone 5, made of lightweight aluminum, is easily scratched or nicked are being taken seriously: Bloomberg reports that iPhone 5 production has slowed due to an attempt by Apple and its manufacturing partner Foxconn to correct these quality control issues at the factory level. As a result, the devices aren’t shipping with the machine-like efficiency we’ve come to expect from Tim Cook’s Apple(s AAPL).
While Apple SVP Phil Schiller reportedly gave the brush off to a customer who complained — 9to5Mac published his email response to a customer where he said it was “normal” for aluminum products to be scratched with use — Apple apparently took action anyway. According to Bloomberg:
The scrapes, which sparked complaints with the iPhone’s debut last month, are due to Apple’s decision to use a type of aluminum that helps make the smartphone thinner and lighter. Senior Apple managers told executives at Foxconn near the end of September to tighten production standards, said the person, who asked not to be named because the matter was private.
The report says Foxconn has been forced to “idle” some factories while it figures out how to adhere with these more exacting standards, though the manufacturer denied that.
Bloomberg’s story seems to correspond with news that came late last week: that iPhone 5 quality control inspectors at at least one Foxconn facility came into conflict with workers over these new, stricter production standards. A labor rights group in the country said the conflict produced a work stoppage.
The narrative surrounding the release of the iPhone 5 has taken a turn the last few weeks. With 5 million units sold in its opening weekend, it was Apple’s biggest iPhone launch yet. Yet the solid opening was marred by widespread disappointment with the accuracy of the company’s new Maps app. It was also the fastest Apple has put the device on sale in different regions, reaching 31 countries in a matter of weeks. But the device’s design changes, use of new materials, and Apple’s more exacting standards have meant that iPhone 5s are still hard to find. Apple’s stock has taken a beating as result.