Future iPhones could be built by Google robots on Foxconn production lines


In what would be a rather amusing twist, future iPhones could be built by Google robots as Google’s robotics division assists Foxconn to “speed up robot deployment” at its factories.

The WSJ reports that Foxconn was looking for assistance in automating its production lines, while Google is aiming to introduce robots to manufacturing processes that have so far been largely manual – electronics assembly being a key example. It takes around 600 people to make each iPhone.

Foxconn has been working with former Android executive Andy Rubin since last year to carry out the U.S. company’s vision for robotics.

To speed up robot deployment at its own factories, Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou met with Rubin in Taipei recently and they discussed new robotic technologies, they said.

At the meeting, Gou expressed excitement over new automation technologies demonstrated by Rubin, they said. Rubin also asked Gou to help integrate a technology company that Google is acquiring as Foxconn’s strength lies in mechanical engineering.

Google has acquired eight robotics companies over the course of the past year, and is believed to have ambitions to create a robotic operating system that would be to manufacturing what Android is to smartphones. Foxconn is looking to reduce operating costs and boost efficiency.

“Foxconn needs Google’s help to step up automation at its factories as the company has the lowest sales per employee among the contract makers, given its large workforce,” said Wanli Wang, an analyst at CIMB Securities.

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  1. Martin Robertson - 9 years ago

    That’s unfortunate. Looks like I’ll be forced to look for a different phone. Can’t have Google getting to my personal data.

  2. rettun1 - 9 years ago

    So now they’re being made outside the US AND they’ll be made by robots? If it can be entirely automated, why not bring some production to the United States?

  3. Mike Knopp (@mknopp) - 9 years ago

    I call bollocks on this. None of the companies that Google has bought have been any of the big industrial robotics companies in the world, and industrial robotic OSes have to be made completely different from consumer OSes.

    If this is true then I am predicting that they are doing it so that the press can bash Apple. I can see the headlines now, “Workers building Apple iPhones are being killed by the manufacturing process as industrial robot has glitch and throws iPhones around factory like bullets.”

  4. charilaosmulder - 9 years ago

    Conclusion. Apple must build its own production in the US.

  5. rottenbittenfruit - 9 years ago

    I had thought that there were many dedicated companies who were high in the robotics field and yet Wall Street is thinking Google is simply going to jump over all of them with some new solution. Although possible it does seem somewhat unlikely. Considering a company like Sony has been heavily into robotics for dozens of years, is Google is going to blow past them after buying a few robotics companies? If investors are betting on that then I really don’t understand Wall Street. Although I admit Boston Dynamics robots are impressive, they still seem to have a long way to go before having practical applications. I guess if that’s what excites investors then more power to Google. Fully autonomous robots still seems like a far off dream to me. It would be a huge step for industry if Google could pull something like that off and iPhones would be practically insignificant in comparison. However, I just can’t believe this is what’s driving Google’s share price so high.

  6. rogifan - 9 years ago

    Sounds to me like more Google hype, leaked to the media. IF we ever see this I doubt it will be any time soon.

  7. Ryan DeRocco - 9 years ago

    Does that mean the the suicide nets will be replaced with suicide magnets?


Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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