iPhone 4G Secret Prototype leads to a Death

iPhone 3rd generation is just out and people are already setting expectations for the fourth generation coming out next year. As per sources, it’s been designed in certain Taiwanese company’s labs.

Apple has long surprised us with their exciting new features. But last week, it was something negative. Sun Danyong, a fresh grad at Taiwenese firm, committed suicide after a fourth-generation iPhone prototype he was responsible for went missing. It’s a proof of how Apple’s secretive ways send extreme pressure all the way down the company’s international supply chain.

Danyong  had landed a job handling product communications for electronics manufacturing giantFoxconn. He was assigned the task of shipping iPhone prototypes from Foxconn to Apple. The sequence of events goes as follows, based on news reports currently coming out of China, including a major local paper, Southern Metropolis Daily. The news has yet to be reported in the English-language press, at least that I’ve seen, although it’s all over the Chinese-language Twitter space.

On Thursday, July 9th, Sun got 16 prototype phones from the assembly line at a local Foxconn factory. At some point in the next few days, he discovered that one of the phones was missing. He suspected that it had been left at the factory, but couldn’t find it. On Monday, he reported the missing phone to his boss. Then, that Wednesday, three Foxconn employees searched his apartment — illegally, according to Chinese law. Accusations are flying that Sun was detained and physically abused during the investigation, although this has not been substantiated (possible evidence: there’s this somewhat garbled and potentially faked instant message exchange from Sun shortly before his death).

What is known: On Thursday — a little after 3 a.m. according to surveillance videos in the apartment building — he jumped out of a window in his apartment building to his death leading to a coward suicide.

All the time, there are 1000s of blogs hungry to publish the latest rumor/fact about any Apple product — the company has many ravenous consumer fans and investors, because let’s face it, the products are great. Beyond the products, though, the company uses the element of surprise to help build up excitement for its flashy product launches, helping to drive sales and its stock price higher. In order to make that happen, Apple exerts immense pressure on its business partners help it maintain secrecy. The missing phone, some sort of new iPhone, has so far been nothing more than speculation among gadget sites for iPhone 4g.

Taiwan-based Foxconn makes Apple’s iPhones and iPods, along with numerous other hardware devices for other international technology companies. It faces cutthroat competition from other manufacturers around China and the world. A leak of the next generation of Apple’s crown jewel, the iPhone, could badly hurt Foxconn’s business relationship with Apple. The pressure within Foxconn to maintain Apple’s secrets, then, is not surprising.

Few facts of information that has popped out on blogs: People like Sun are pretty helpless when things go wrong in Apple’s supply chain. Here’s how Steven Lin, a Chinese blogger and marketer, put it:

Students [like Sun] have been studying in schools for years, and they have been carefully protected by their parents. They can’t endure such pressure – ‘their house being illegally searched,’ or ‘house arrests’. Employees at these and other factories sometimes kill themselves simply because of the pressure from their daily jobs — you know what’s going to happen when they face more serious threats. Also, most young Chinese guys don’t have friends who are lawyers, so they don’t know how to protect themselves in the legal system. They won’t even look for help from the legal system. They will just endure the pressure, and finally find an extreme way to end all their troubles.

Is the Apple’s flashy surprises worth taking few lifes? I don’t think so.

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