MIT Technology Review has completed a study of how and where iPhones are made, and they have reached conclusions that make it clear that one of Republican presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign promises is basically impossible.
Based on analysis furnished by IHS and interviews with experts, Konstantin Kakaes reports:
- A hypothetical iPhone made from U.S.-manufactured parts would cost about $100 more than the iPhone which is currently assembled mostly in China. That would have a significant impact on Apple’s sales.
- 346 suppliers, nearly half of Apple’s 766 parts suppliers, are based in China. The US only has 69 Apple suppliers.
- No tech product could ever be produced “mine to assembly” in one country, mostly because of rare materials, which, true to their name, are difficult to find. For example, there’s no bauxite mine at all in the United States — and bauxite is a necessary component to all iPhones.
The analysis doesn’t even touch on the fact that there aren’t as many workers with the appropriate manufacturing and machining skills in the United States as in China — which is the reason former CEO Steve Jobs gave President Barack Obama when he asked about American iPhones.
Still, the analysis makes clear that when Trump said that he’d force Apple to build its “damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries,” he didn’t know what he was talking about.
Of course, there could be another reason why Trump is putting pressure on Apple on the campaign trail: According to his most recent personal finance disclosure, he received $150,000 for a speech he made for Samsung Electronics America in 2015. (Samsung declined to comment.)
But ultimately, the biggest problem with Trump’s proposal to build iPhones and other electronics in the United States is that he doesn’t seem to have a plan to achieve what would be a major realignment of the American economy. When Obama asked the same question, Jobs gave him recommendations, and he made an effort to implement them.
Scores of publications and analysts have made the point that an American-made iPhone would be an enormous and unlikely undertaking. MIT Technology Review’s piece — which you should definitely read — is one of the most complete arguments yet.