The first concrete details of Apple's cheapo plastic iPhone have been inadvertently revealed during a recent labour rights' group probe into alleged worker abuse on Cupertino's Chinese production line.
China Labor Watch produced a long document describing the alleged long working weeks of workers at three Pegatron facilities and claiming that over 80 labour rights violations were taking place at the factories, including underage labour, insufficient wages and poor working conditions.
Although the report described a culture of gruelling overtime, cramped living conditions and rock bottom pay, it also gave fanbois and gurlz a tantalising glimpse of the new phone being built.
The new phone is apparently in the prototype stage, but seems to include a plastic shell, making it cheaper than Apple's previous high-end offerings.
The report quoted an unnamed worker, who discussed building a naff-sounding plastic iPhone.
Today's work is to paste protective film on the iPhone's plastic back cover to prevent it from being scratched on assembly lines. This iPhone model with a plastic cover will soon be released on the market by Apple.
The task is pretty easy, and I was able to work independently after a five-minute instruction from a veteran employee. It took around a minute to paste protective film on one rear cover. The new cellphone has not yet been put into mass production, so quantity is not as important.
It may sound like the name of a horse-shaped Transformer, but Pegatron is a Taiwanese firm that operates factories in China. It was a subsidiary of Asus, the world's fifth-largest computer company, which spun it off in 2007.
China Labor Watch sent investigators into three Pegatron Group factories between March and July 2013, and they carried out interviews with more than 200 workers.
The three factories were Pegatron Shanghai, where the iPhone is being produced, Riteng, which is also in Shanghai and produces Mac computers, and a factory called AVY in Suzhou which produces iPad parts. The three factories employ some 70,000 staff.
The investigators alleged they had uncovered at least 86 "labour rights violations", including 36 legal violations and 50 ethical violations.
The Apple supplier has said it plans to "investigate the matter and [will] take immediate action to correct any violations of Chinese labour laws and its own code of conduct".
Apple responded to the allegations in a lengthy statement. It said it had carried out 15 audits at Pegatron's facilities since 2007, looking at the working conditions of more than 130,000 staff. These inspections included surprise visits and spot checks, said the fruity firm.
Apple said: "Apple is committed to providing safe and fair working conditions throughout our supply chain. We lead the industry with far-reaching and specialized audits, the most transparent reporting and educational programs that enrich the lives of workers who make our products."
The company added: "Additionally, we have closely tracked working hours at all of these facilities. Our most recent survey in June found that Pegatron employees making Apple products worked 46 hours per week on average. Excessive overtime is not in anyone’s best interest, and we work closely with our suppliers to prevent it."
Rumours suggest that the iPad-maker will release the cheaper iPhone later this year, with September mentioned as a possibility. ®