When the iPhone Needed a Glass Screen, 8000 Workers Were Woken Up

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Last night I read a NY Times article about the answer to a question President Obama posed to Apple executives last year: Why can’t the iPhone be made in the USA?

Sadly, the history of this iconic device says a lot about China, sophisticated supply chains and the huge difference in work ethics.

About a month before the first iPhone was about to ship in 2007, Steve Jobs was in a meeting and took out the prototype phone he had been carrying around in his pocket for two weeks. “Look at all these scratches!” he complained. “People carry their keys with the phone in their pocket. Why is this so scratched up?” The model had a plastic screen, so Apple’s chief demanded that they figure out how to use a glass screen that would not scratch. For any American factory, a nightmare and dead-end.

An Apple executive flew to China the next day and that night 8,000 workers were roused from their dormitories and given a biscuit and a cup of tea. For the next twelve hours the workers fit a new bezeled glass screen into 10,000 iPhones, and continued this process to make the deadline.

Mobilizing 8000 workers in a few minutes? Working on a complicated project like this? For $17 a day? Forget it.

For those who want to bring factory work home, here’s a quote from a man who used to assemble the original iMacs in Elk Grove California. “They wanted us to work Saturdays and more overtime, but I wanted to watch my kids play soccer.” In China, that’s not as much of a problem.