A supply chain source in Taiwan said Apple was trying to find a coating material that did not interfere with the fingerprint sensor, and this may be causing a delay.
In addition to the 5S, suppliers say Apple is also developing a cheaper model, which can appeal to lower-income buyers in growth markets such as China and India. A supplier source in Japan said small-scale production of display panels will begin in May, ramping up to mass production in June.
Both phones will use the same 4-inch screen, but the cheaper version will probably not include the new fingerprint technology and sport a cheaper plastic casing, the sources said.
Apple has been expected to introduce fingerprint-scanning technology since it acquired biometrics firm AuthenTec last year.
Last month, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said his firm expected the results of that takeover to be revealed this summer with the new iPhone 5S.
He said: “We expect [that] iPhone 5S will have a fingerprint chip under the Home button, improving security and usability.”
Suppliers and investors are struggling to gauge demand for the iconic smartphone as Samsung and up-and-coming rivals grab market share. Indications of reduced shipments now send shares in Apple and its component-makers into a tailspin.
An Apple supply chain source in Japan said those in the industry often jokingly refer to the company as “Poison Apple” because of its hard-to-meet high standards and low price expectations.
Sources at several Asian suppliers, which for years basked in the glow of Apple’s success and enjoyed stock gains even on rumours they might be among the select group of companies to sell components to Apple, spoke this week of ever-moving deadlines and said they were trying to reduce their reliance on the company.
Wild rumors plague every new iPhone launch. But this year much of the speculation has centred on whether demand for the iPhone is waning as an increasing number of consumers choose alternatives, including phones from Samsung – now the world’s biggest seller of cell phones – and those produced by other adopters of Google’s Android software.
The erosion of Apple’s industry and market supremacy over the past year may embolden carrier partners and suppliers, analysts say. That could mean tougher negotiations over component costs and the subsidies carriers pay to stock iPhones.