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Missing Prototype iPhone Leads to Chinese Worker’s Death

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A 25-year-old old employee of China’s Foxconn, a mammoth manufacturing company that builds many products for Apple as well as other manufacturers, has committed suicide over the loss of a prototype 4th-generation iPhone that was in his care. The worker jumped to his death from the 12th floor of his apartment building in the southern city of Shenzhen early in the morning of July 16, according to the state run regional paper Southern Metropolis Daily (Chinese). However, the apparent suicide is mixed with allegations from the worker’s friends that he had been detained and beaten by Foxconn security personnel over the missing device, as well as having had his apartment searched.

The employee was responsible for sending prototype devices to Apple, and on July 13 reported that one of 16 prototype devices in his care was missing.

Apple spokespeople have repeatedly issued the following statement to media outlets: "We are saddened by the tragic loss of this young employee, and we are awaiting results of the investigations into his death. We require our suppliers to treat all workers with dignity and respect."

Foxconn has asked Chinese policy to investigate the case; the Shanghai Daily claims the police intend to examine whether the worker had been murdered.

Apple is famous for the secrecy surrounding its current and future products, and works closely with Foxconn to eliminate leaks and information about future product plans from reaching mainstream media. Foxconn has also been previously criticized for management shortcomings and for mistreating its workers. This incident is also not the first time Apple has had a PR problem on its hands from Foxconn; three years ago, media reports of sweatshop-like conditions at Foxconn’s "iPod City" with very long hours and low worker compensation dogged Apple. Apple conducted its own review of Foxconn but found few significant violations of its supplier codes of conduct.

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