Apple's next-generation iPhone has already prompted supplier Foxconn to bump up its ranks.
Also known as Hon Hai Precision, the Taiwan-based supplier confirmed today that it has hired around 10,000 employees for the assembly line at its factory in Zhengzhou since the end of March, the Wall Street Journal has reported. The Zhengzhou plant is a major producer of the iPhone.
A spokesman for Foxconn told the Journal only that the company increased its workforce to meet seasonal demand from customers. But "executives familiar with the situation" said the extra employees were hired specifically to get ready to produce the next iPhone.
"We have been very busy recently as we will start mass-producing the new iPhone soon," a Zhengzhou-based executive "who has direct knowledge of production plans" told the Journal.
As expected, rumors have been swirling over when the next iPhone, expected to be the iPhone 5S, will launch.
In the past, Apple traditionally launched each new iPhone in the summer. The company switched gears with the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5, unveiling those models in the early fall. Several analysts and Apple watchers believe the company will revert back to its prior timeframe this year.
Japanese Apple blog site Macotakara said early last month that production of the next iPhone had already started. But that report contradicts the Journal's sources, who say that production will ramp up sometime this quarter. If true, that wouldn't give Apple much time to get the phone ready for a July debut, meaning a September launch date may be in the cards after all.
In February, Foxconn slowed down hiring at its Chinese factories, which the company told CNET was "due to an unprecedented rate of return of employees following the Chinese New Year holiday compared to years past." A report from the Financial Times claimed the hiring freeze was triggered by fewer orders for the iPhone 5 since it occurred across all of Foxconn's plants in the country.
Foxconn did see a 19 percent drop in revenues for the first quarter, which some analysts attributed to weaker demand for iPhones and iPads. However, the company's fortunes should pick up once orders for the iPhone 5S kick in.