Did Foxconn lose the iPhone SE Contract to Wistron because of their Partnership with InFocus in India?
In April Patently Apple posted a report titled "What's the Game Plan for the Ever Aggressive Foxconn?" We noted in that report that Foxconn had invested in Andy Rubin's smartphone company 'Essential' that launched in May. Foxconn is also pushing Sharp into manufacturing OLED displays while putting Sharp smartphones back into the market under the 'Aquos R' brand. In a new report from India we learn something very interesting that may reveal a conflict of Interest between Foxconn and Apple and perhaps why Wistron was awarded the contract for the iPhone SE in India.
The Economic Times report states "InFocus, the handset arm of Taiwan's Foxconn, plans to invest US$10 million to get a foothold in India with a focus on the $155 (to 255) price range smartphones," the sweet spot in today's Indian economy. Foxconn also plans to launch smartphones from Sharp in India by the end of the year.
When you go to the InFocus website, they describe their company in-part as follows:
"InFocus, a U.S. pioneer in the visual communication market, and Foxconn, the global leader in consumer electronics manufacturing, have come together in a strategic partnership to provide consumers with an array of innovative solutions.
InFocus and Foxconn leverage each other's technical know-how and resources to jointly develop cutting-edge consumer electronics, such as mobile phones, tablets and LED TVs, and visual collaboration technology, such as projectors, touchscreen solutions and video communication systems.
Production and assembly is placed in the hands of Foxconn's world-class engineers and technicians, while InFocus's global sales and marketing teams bring these innovative products to the doorsteps of consumers around the world."
Wikipedia notes that "In 2013, InFocus began offering budget high-specification smartphones, tablets and LED televisions in China, Taiwan and other East Asian markets in partnership with FIH Mobile Ltd. (富智康) and Hon Hai Precision Industry Co." The report of that time noted that FIH Mobile was a handset manufacturing arm of Hon Hai.
Technically Foxconn's business interest could be considered a conflict of interest with Apple's push into India with their iPhone SE. This could be one of the reasons why Apple gave the contract to Wistron for the iPhone SE in India.
Between Foxconn's big push into the smartphone market with Sharp later this year, a strategic investment in Essential and a partnership with InFocus for smartphones and tablets, it's difficult to know if Foxconn long term will be friend, foe or frenemy in respect to Apple.
For now, Foxconn is the primary manufacturer of Apple's premium smartphones and their relationship seems to be stronger than ever. In fact yesterday we reported that Foxconn's Spin-Off connector company is preparing to expand in the U.S. based on a recommendation from Apple – which would suggest that they're anything but foe.
Yet the question remains open. Was Apple's move with Wistron due to Foxconn's support for a low-end smartphone through InFocus or was Apple's move merely a temporary convenience until they could finish their negotiations with the Indian government that would set up an opportunity for Foxconn to enter the market on Apple's behalf?
While Foxconn has always made products for other vendors that compete with Apple, their recent moves have been to also invest and/or own the very companies that will compete directly against Apple's iPhone and so long term you have to wonder if Apple's friend will eventually become foe.
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