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Rumor: Is Foxconn Hiring for an iPhone 5 Launch?

Apparently last October’s iPhone 4S wasn’t enough for everyone as rumors about a possible iPhone 5 launch this June have started to swirl around the Internet. The latest fuel to this fire comes from TV Tokyo, which seems to have captured footage of a Foxconn employee telling people that they are hiring 18,000 employees for a June release. Unless that’s not exactly what happened — which is probably the case.

Foxconn, as you no doubt know, is the massive electronics maker responsible for actually building many Apple products, and their activities could be used as an indicator for forthcoming Apple developments. So here’s the rub: I don’t speak Japanese or any flavor of Chinese, and as such cannot confirm first hand what is being said in the video from TV Tokoyo. However, here’s what the accompanying article has to say on the subject of Foxconn recruitment, via Google Translate:

Foxconn is known in the assembly of Apple products, has been the recruitment of 18,000 more personnel, personnel recruitment office says it’s recruiting for the production of iPhone 5.

No mention of a June launch date, just a hiring spree. In fact, most of the TV Tokyo piece seems to be focusing on a struggling Japanese screen industry. The 18,000 person hiring figure is one that has been making the rounds since at least a week ago, so it does seems that Foxconn is hiring a lot of people to do something.

Kotaku, which seems to have brought this clip to the attention of U.S. readers, writes their own translation of the exchange between the reporter and an alleged Foxconn recruiter at a gate outside the factory. There’s no indication that the “recruiter” knew he was on film.

When a WBS reporter asked a recruiter at Foxconn’s Taiyuan factory about all the help wanted ads, he replied, “Now, we’re recruiting 18,000 people to make the Apple iPhone 5.”

The reporter noted that was a lot of people to which the recruiter replied, “That’s because it seems like it will go on sale around June.”

While I don’t doubt that Kotaku is confident in their translation of what was said on camera, I do doubt that the man saying it knew what he was talking about. Or that the information was conveyed in the correct context. Everyone seems to agree that around 18,000 people are going to be hired but for what and when is completely unclear. Perhaps those employees are needed to relieve the current iPhone workers, perhaps there’s another major project for another of Foxconn’s customers, or perhaps the new iPhone will require a radical new assembly process and new employees will need thurough training beginning in June for a later release.

Furthermore, it’s worth pointing out that the source of the original 18,000 hiring figure came in the wake of a strike at Foxconn. Given that Apple has set sales records for both the iPhone 4S and new iPad, perhaps Foxconn and Apple are keen to have a pool of ready workers available sooner rather than later. Or maybe this is all a strike-breaking tactic on the part of Foxconn management.

Something certainly appears to be brewing at Foxconn, though no amount of speculation will make it any clearer. However, the biggest problem I see with a summer release for a new iPhone is simply the schedule: The iPhone 4 was released in June 2010 and it’s successor came not even a year ago in October 2011. I simply cannot imagine that Apple would follow up the longest delay between iPhone refreshes with the shortest.

(TV Tokyo via TechCrunch)

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