Every iPhone screen has a barcode to prevent a manufacturing scam

Posted:
in iPhone edited September 2023

Apple spent millions to add a barcode to iPhone displays in order to save being charged hundreds of millions by manufacturers claiming faulty screens that may not have been.




Chinese display firms Lens Technology and Biel Crystal have been controversial over their alleged use of forced labor, and Apple has been accused of letting such accusations slide. But the company has not shied away from monitoring the two firms and their claims of manufacturing problems.

A new report from The Information stops well short of saying that the two display companies ever falsified their reports to Apple.

However, it does claim that 30% of iPhone screens used to be thrown away as faulty, reportedly costing Apple hundreds of millions of dollars. Following Apple's creation of a new barcode system etched into the glass, the failure rate is now down to 10%.

Hidden QR codes help Apple keep reported failures down



There are actually two QR codes in every iPhone screen, and they are added to different points, at different stages of manufacture. The Information is inconsistent about the size of the codes, saying that one is the size of a grain of sand, but later describing that as 0.2mm.

It's possible the publication intended to refer to the second code, which is larger and described as being about the size of the tip of a crayon.

But it's the smaller one that is there specifically because of the defective panels. Apple reportedly spent millions in 2020 to add the code to the manufacturing process, and to then scan the finished display for that at the end of production.

Also reportedly, Lens Technology and Biel Crystal have previously stymied Apples efforts to determine the true rate of defects, but it's not explained how. Any significantly large number of defects does raise overall production costs, however.

Two sources told The Information that the smaller barcode is a matrix of 625 dots embedded with lasers. It's also not in the same spot on every iPhone.

It is somewhere in every iPhone display, though, and that reportedly caused difficulties. Embedding the code originally weakened the screen, to the extent that drop tests would often show cracks in the glass starting from the location of the code.

Through creating new scanning techniques using special microscopic lenses and pairing them with ring lights, Apple was able to avoid etching the code too deep into the glass.

Apple continues to use raw glass from Corning, a company it regularly invests in. But that raw material is shipped to Lens Technology and Biel Crystal for shaping.

If the one, smaller code is there to keep a track of displays that are only allegedly faulty, the second code is there for genuine faults. The larger code lets Apple know which of the two firms supplied this truly broken display.

It's possible, even likely, that Apple records more information than just the manufacturer. It's more likely that this second code could contain enough detail to narrow down issues to specific batches of display production.

Read on AppleInsider

FileMakerFeller

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    Declared faulty and sell to gray market?? NO that doesn’t happened 
    carthusiabeowulfschmidtFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 16
    maltzmaltz Posts: 448member
    The Information is inconsistent about the size of the codes, saying that one is the size of a grain of sand, but later describing that as 0.2mm.

    It's possible the publication intended to refer to the second code, which is larger and described as being about the size of the tip of a crayon.

    I guess the size of a grain of sand varies a lot, but in my experience, most are a lot closer to 0.2mm than the tip of a crayon that's, what, 2-3mm?

    Cool article though.  Glad to see Apple finding innovative ways to improve quality control.

    sphericAlex1NpulseimagesradarthekatappleinsideruserbloggerblogFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 16
    XedXed Posts: 2,472member

    It's possible, even likely, that Apple records more information than just the manufacturer. It's more likely that this second code could contain enough detail to narrow down issues to specific batches of display production. 

    I have no firsthand knowledge of how Apple does business but I can say it would be foolish to go to all that trouble and not record when and where a component was manufactured. Knowing the batch info is pertinent for dealing with a manufacturing (or theft) issue when it occurs, or even down the road if there's a flaw that didn't show itself until late, like a faulty batch of batteries that are catching fire.
    Alex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 16
    danoxdanox Posts: 2,684member
    Don’t worry, they’ll have to do the same thing in India and Vietnam too. And probably for almost everything else they make in China or anywhere else, a lot of those etching and markings/codes that Apple puts on all of their devices that are manufactured overseas are probably there for many of the same reasons, they’re not just there to make Lou Rossmann cry iFixit.


    edited September 2023 ilarynxAlex1N
  • Reply 5 of 16

    A "barcode" is not the same as a "QR code".

    Let's get the editorial standards higher, eh?

    SkepticalFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 16
    Too bad there isn’t more competition in this area. Sad that you’re forced to do business with companies you can’t trust—that are actually stealing from you. 
    Alex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 16
    XedXed Posts: 2,472member

    A "barcode" is not the same as a "QR code".

    Let's get the editorial standards higher, eh?

    Barcode is the generic reference to all such codes, and QR codes are considered a 2D barcode.
    sphericAlex1Nradarthekatappleinsideruserbeowulfschmidtmaltzwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 16
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,616member
    If Apple is selling 40 million plus iPhones per year, the. A scrap rate of 10% would mean 4 millions screens are wasted.  This is why the auto industry talks about failures and defects in ppm.  

    PPM!  

    This article does not surprise me. 
    Alex1NFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 16
    eriamjh said:
    If Apple is selling 40 million plus iPhones per year, the. A scrap rate of 10% would mean 4 millions screens are wasted.  This is why the auto industry talks about failures and defects in ppm.  

    PPM!  

    This article does not surprise me. 
    Apple sells 40 million plus per quarter which is 40 million plus per year but the yearly is well over 100 million a year. And if Apple is looking at PPM as well. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 16
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,823moderator
    eriamjh said:
    If Apple is selling 40 million plus iPhones per year, the. A scrap rate of 10% would mean 4 millions screens are wasted.  This is why the auto industry talks about failures and defects in ppm.  

    PPM!  

    This article does not surprise me. 
    Apple sells 40 million plus per quarter which is 40 million plus per year but the yearly is well over 100 million a year. And if Apple is looking at PPM as well. 
    More like more than 250 million per year.  Apple sells 90-100 million iPhones in the holiday quarter these days.  
    bloggerblogwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 16
    danox said:
    Don’t worry, they’ll have to do the same thing in India and Vietnam too. And probably for almost everything else they make in China or anywhere else, a lot of those etching and markings/codes that Apple puts on all of their devices that are manufactured overseas are probably there for many of the same reasons, they’re not just there to make Lou Rossmann cry iFixit.


    Louis Rossmann does not care AT ALL about barcodes.  What he (and I, and you should) care about is the ability to repair devices.  There is NO EXCUSE for screens not to be swappable between iPhones and functionality to be broken.  Apple intentionally breaking compatibility should be criminal conduct.  If there's a legitimate reason that calibration is necessary (there isn't, but if there was) then the tool to do the calibration should be made available to the public or somebody at Apple should go to jail.

    There's no excuse for Apple's bad behavior.
  • Reply 12 of 16
    danoxdanox Posts: 2,684member
    darkvader said:
    danox said:
    Don’t worry, they’ll have to do the same thing in India and Vietnam too. And probably for almost everything else they make in China or anywhere else, a lot of those etching and markings/codes that Apple puts on all of their devices that are manufactured overseas are probably there for many of the same reasons, they’re not just there to make Lou Rossmann cry iFixit.


    Louis Rossmann does not care AT ALL about barcodes.  What he (and I, and you should) care about is the ability to repair devices.  There is NO EXCUSE for screens not to be swappable between iPhones and functionality to be broken.  Apple intentionally breaking compatibility should be criminal conduct.  If there's a legitimate reason that calibration is necessary (there isn't, but if there was) then the tool to do the calibration should be made available to the public or somebody at Apple should go to jail.

    There's no excuse for Apple's bad behavior.

    Any electrical parts that are used, probably need to be hardcoded (software checked) and probably has to have something more than just a barcode, when dealing with China, Vietnam, India, and other parts unknown, and as time goes by Apple is probably going to do more hardwire coding to make sure the electrical parts used are matched to their products exactly as per the contract with the manufacturer in question, sour-Why? faced Lou Rossmann is never going to be happy with that and neither will all those chop shop street repair places, who would use questionable (stolen) non genuine parts, if they could get away with it.

    And there’s a simple solution if you’re dissatisfied with Apple you can move on to the Windows, Android world, where you can fix, repair cheap things, and mix and match to your hearts content, in short have a ball.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 16
    XedXed Posts: 2,472member
    danox said:
    darkvader said:
    danox said:
    Don’t worry, they’ll have to do the same thing in India and Vietnam too. And probably for almost everything else they make in China or anywhere else, a lot of those etching and markings/codes that Apple puts on all of their devices that are manufactured overseas are probably there for many of the same reasons, they’re not just there to make Lou Rossmann cry iFixit.


    Louis Rossmann does not care AT ALL about barcodes.  What he (and I, and you should) care about is the ability to repair devices.  There is NO EXCUSE for screens not to be swappable between iPhones and functionality to be broken.  Apple intentionally breaking compatibility should be criminal conduct.  If there's a legitimate reason that calibration is necessary (there isn't, but if there was) then the tool to do the calibration should be made available to the public or somebody at Apple should go to jail.

    There's no excuse for Apple's bad behavior.

    Any electrical parts that are used, probably need to be hardcoded (software checked) and probably has to have something more than just a barcode, when dealing with China, Vietnam, India, and other parts unknown, and as time goes by Apple is probably going to do more hardwire coding to make sure the electrical parts used are matched to their products exactly as per the contract with the manufacturer in question, sour-Why? faced Lou Rossmann is never going to be happy with that and neither will all those chop shop street repair places, who would use questionable (stolen) non genuine parts, if they could get away with it.

    And there’s a simple solution if you’re dissatisfied with Apple you can move on to the Windows, Android world, where you can fix, repair cheap things, and mix and match to your hearts content, in short have a ball.
    Imagine having no security between the components that make FaceID useful and secure. His complaint is an old one that started when Apple engineering TouchID into the now forgotten Home Button. If one wants to get a device that doesn't actually do any real security there are plenty of options.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 16
    longfanglongfang Posts: 436member
    darkvader said:
    danox said:
    Don’t worry, they’ll have to do the same thing in India and Vietnam too. And probably for almost everything else they make in China or anywhere else, a lot of those etching and markings/codes that Apple puts on all of their devices that are manufactured overseas are probably there for many of the same reasons, they’re not just there to make Lou Rossmann cry iFixit.


    Louis Rossmann does not care AT ALL about barcodes.  What he (and I, and you should) care about is the ability to repair devices.  There is NO EXCUSE for screens not to be swappable between iPhones and functionality to be broken.  Apple intentionally breaking compatibility should be criminal conduct.  If there's a legitimate reason that calibration is necessary (there isn't, but if there was) then the tool to do the calibration should be made available to the public or somebody at Apple should go to jail.

    There's no excuse for Apple's bad behavior.
    Why should I care about ability to repair? That’s what Apple and Applecare is for. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 16
    XedXed Posts: 2,472member
    longfang said:
    darkvader said:
    danox said:
    Don’t worry, they’ll have to do the same thing in India and Vietnam too. And probably for almost everything else they make in China or anywhere else, a lot of those etching and markings/codes that Apple puts on all of their devices that are manufactured overseas are probably there for many of the same reasons, they’re not just there to make Lou Rossmann cry iFixit.


    Louis Rossmann does not care AT ALL about barcodes.  What he (and I, and you should) care about is the ability to repair devices.  There is NO EXCUSE for screens not to be swappable between iPhones and functionality to be broken.  Apple intentionally breaking compatibility should be criminal conduct.  If there's a legitimate reason that calibration is necessary (there isn't, but if there was) then the tool to do the calibration should be made available to the public or somebody at Apple should go to jail.

    There's no excuse for Apple's bad behavior.
    Why should I care about ability to repair? That’s what Apple and Applecare is for. 
    AppleCare+ was included with the purchase of the device, for the life of the device regardless of original ownership of the device it still wouldn't mean that no one would care about servicing their own device.

    You not caring is not a reason why no one should care. Not everyone gets AC+ and even fewer are close to Apple Stores. 
    edited October 2023 muthuk_vanalingamFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 16 of 16
    darkvader said:
    danox said:
    Don’t worry, they’ll have to do the same thing in India and Vietnam too. And probably for almost everything else they make in China or anywhere else, a lot of those etching and markings/codes that Apple puts on all of their devices that are manufactured overseas are probably there for many of the same reasons, they’re not just there to make Lou Rossmann cry iFixit.


    Louis Rossmann does not care AT ALL about barcodes.  What he (and I, and you should) care about is the ability to repair devices.  There is NO EXCUSE for screens not to be swappable between iPhones and functionality to be broken.  Apple intentionally breaking compatibility should be criminal conduct.  If there's a legitimate reason that calibration is necessary (there isn't, but if there was) then the tool to do the calibration should be made available to the public or somebody at Apple should go to jail.

    There's no excuse for Apple's bad behavior.
    I respectfully disagree. If Apple wants to track individual parts to minimise the "chop shop" activities then by necessity any repairs need to be logged with Apple. The "authorised repair centre" model gives Apple more control over the data capture and minimises the number of events that are not tracked. Returning the faulty parts also gives Apple the opportunity to analyse them and potentially make changes to their design and manufacturing to reduce problems in the future.

    All of Apple's efforts to reduce the benefit to thieves have so far been quite successful, and the benefits accrue to all device purchasers. The drawbacks, however, accrue to individuals who are restricted from repairing their own devices or experimenting with modifications.

    It's really hard from the outside to determine whether or not the global benefit outweighs the localised costs. We don't see the reduction in thefts other than by anecdotal reports, nor do we see the impact on device longevity, nor the effect of non-genuine parts on device performance. Apple has a lot of those numbers but chooses not to share them. It's easier to track the costs of repair and replacement, and therefore we naturally give those numbers more prominence. But it might be worth remembering that there are trade-offs being made and we don't have all the information required to make a solid judgement.
    muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobramaltz
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