Production of low-cost 'iPhone 5C' draws allegations of poor working conditions

A recently leaked photo suggests that the low-cost iPhone will be marketed as the iPhone 5C, but what the "C" stands for may surprise you.
Written by Jason D. O'Grady, Contributor on

It appears that the widely rumored, low-cost iPhone will be sold as the "iPhone 5C" if recently leaked photos are real. 

French site Nowhereelse.fr posted an image from Chinese site WeiPhone that appears to show plastic retail packaging emblazoned with the name "iPhone 5C." If genuine, it could be upcoming packaging for Apple's rumored low-cost, plastic iPhone. 

The "C" doesn't stand for Cheap, China or Child Labor, but instead for "Colors" according to the consensus at MacRumors. The low-cost device, believed to be targeted at emerging economies in BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) will be priced less than the forthcoming iPhone 5S and will presumably include less-expensive CPU, camera and networking hardware and lower-cost materials. 

Computerworld published a 60-page report (PDF) from labor rights group China Labor Watch alleging poor working conditions also confirms that a plastic-shelled iPhone is currently in mass production at Pegatron. A section of the report entitled "July 9, 2013: A day in Pegatron" includes a paragraph in which a worker describes their role in applying protective film to the rear shell of the device before the part enters the assembly process.

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 cell phone has not yet been put into mass production, so quantity is not as important. This makes our job more slow paced than in departments that have begun mass production schedules.

Pictures of what's believed to be rear shells of the iPhone 5C have previously leaked, showing that the device will come in five colors including red, yellow, white, blue and green.

Apple's low-cost, plastic iPhone 5C colors - Jason O'Grady

More seriously, Pegatron is accused of misleading Apple on employee overtime.

Pegatron has a falsified attendance recording system in which workers’ overtime is recorded to be less than the real amount. Each week, all workers are required by an HR assistant to check yes and sign their names on an overtime form. Workers are required to sign and are not to pay attention to the number of overtime hours written on the form; the document’s only purpose is to deceive Apple during inspections.

Other claimed violations according to China Labor Watch:

  • Dispatch labor abuse,
  • Hiring discrimination,
  • Women’s rights violations,
  • Contract violations,
  • Insufficient worker training,
  • Excessive working hours,
  • Insufficient wages,
  • Poor working conditions,
  • Poor living conditions,
  • Difficulty in taking leave,
  • Labor health and safety concerns,
  • Ineffective grievance channels,
  • Abuse by management,
  • Environmental pollution.

You can read the report in its entirety here (PDF)

Editorial standards