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Touch panel defect may delay iPhone 5 shipments

Based on reports from earlier this week, we’re nearly 100 percent certain that the iPhone 5 (and iPhone 4S) will be unveiled next month, probably on October 4. What remains more of a mystery, however, is when customers can actually get their hands on the next-generation Apple handset. Unfortunately, bad news out from an Apple component supplier may push that date back further than anticipated.

According to Taiwan-based industry outlet DigiTimes, touch panels produced by Wintek for the iPhone 5 have a defect that may make it impossible to meet initial demand for the device. The defect, known as “delayed bubble,” happens when pockets of air form between the touch panel and the lamination layer. The problem is difficult to detect early in the production process, and is said to be hard to avoid.

Despite the unfortunate outlook, a glimmer of hope remains, say DigitTimes‘ source. Because the process for making the touch panels of the iPhone 5 is reportedly the same as the process for making those of the iPhone 4, it’s likely that Wintek will be able to fix the problem relatively quickly. In addition, Wintek produces only 20-25 percent of the touch panels for the iPhone 5, whereas Taiwan-based manufacturer TPK-Holdings produces 60-65 percent, and another producer, Chimei, makes the rest.

If iPhone 5 shipments are delayed, it wouldn’t be the first time customers had to wait a little extra time to start using a new Apple device. Delivery of both the iPhone 3G S and iPhone 4 were delayed for various reasons, at least one of which was AT&T’s struggle to have it system ready to handle the high number of users who came on board to get the Apple handsets. And then, of course, there’s the white iPhone 4, which took approximately an eternity to come to market because of manufacturing problems.

Provided Wintek is able to fix the alleged issue with its touch panels — or the problem won’t affect shipments in the first place — the iPhone 5 is expected to arrive anywhere from weeks to days after the device is unveiled.

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