The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be taking a toll on manufacturing of updated AirPods, with a new report indicating an update to Apple’s popular earbuds will be delayed slightly and roll into the first quarter of 2021.
Nikkei Asian Review also reported Friday sources as saying around 30 percent of all classic AirPods to be produced this quarter for Apple will be made in Vietnam, “a sign the company is accelerating its diversification of production out of China amid the coronavirus pandemic.”
“The mass production of AirPods in Vietnam started as early as in March,” a person familiar with the matter said. “The Vietnamese officials even granted special permits for a key Apple AirPods assembler to help the company bring in engineers to the country for smooth production during lockdowns.” Vietnam began easing some lockdown measures in late April.
The relocation does not yet include AirPods Pro, which Apple introduced last October, according to the report.
The majority of the AirPods range are still produced in China, even though some wearable electronics devices have been hit with additional tariffs imposed by the Trump administration since last year. Apple’s iPhones and MacBooks have not yet been hit by tariffs, and are still primarily assembled in China.
“The production relocation does not yet include AirPods Pro, a high-end version with noise cancellation features that Apple introduced last October. … The majority of the AirPods range — including AirPods and AirPods Pro — are still produced in China,” explains the report.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus outbreak has also hit AirPods demand, as Apple was forced to close many of its brick-and-mortar stores. Apple has told its suppliers to lower production for the first half of 2020 by more than 10 percent from its original orders of around 45 million units, which it placed in January, people familiar with the production plan said. The plan to introduce an update of the AirPods later this year is also currently affected and delayed by the disruptions of COVID-19, the sources said.