The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple has told two of its manufacturing partners to ramp down production on the iPhone 5c.
Apple told its two assemblers, Taiwan-based Pegatron Corp. and Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., that it would cut this quarter's orders for the iPhone 5C, the people familiar with the situation said. Pegatron, which analysts said assembles two-thirds of iPhone 5Cs, was told the order would be cut by less than 20%, a person familiar with the matter said. Hon Hai, which assembles the remaining 5Cs, was told the order would be cut by a third, two people familiar with the matter said.
What's more, a component supplier was told that orders for iPhone 5c parts would be cut in half. At the same time, orders for the iPhone 5s have reportedly increased.
So what are we to make of all this?
Well, it's hard to say.
Now assuming that Apple has, in fact, slashed orders for the iPhone 5c, we have no way of knowing if this is due to lower than expected demand, or perhaps, the result of Apple initially ramping up production to account for iPhone 5s shortages.
Speaking of, the iPhone 5s is another wildcard to consider. A recent survey found that the iPhone 5s is outselling the iPhone 5c by a factor of two to one. And though the iPhone 5s launched about three weeks ago, Apple is still struggling to keep up with demand.
So for all we know, perhaps weaker-than-expected demand for the iPhone 5c is the result of stronger-than-expected demand for the iPhone 5s.
Remember that it's always dangerous to read too much into reports detailing alleged iPhone and component orders. Tim Cook even addressed this point himself during Apple's earnings conference call last January.
I suggest its good to question the accuracy of any kind of rumor about build plans. Even if a particular data point were factual, it would be impossible to interpret that data point as to what it meant to our business. The supply chain is very complex and we have multiple sources for things. Yields can vary, supplier performance can vary. There is an inordinate long list of things that can make any single data point not a great proxy for what is going on.
What will really be telling is how many iPhones Apple shipped for the entirety of the current quarter. Apple's next earnings release date is on Monday, October 28 so we won't have to wait long.
While Apple, if history is any indication, will not break down sales figures across various iPhone models, the cold hard data will be a much better indicator of Apple's success than rumors that portray, at best, an incomplete picture.
Update: The Journal has toned down its initial story, changing the title from "Apple Cuts iPhone 5C Orders" to "Apple's Dual iPhone Strategy in Doubt." The revised story also contains a quote from an executive at Orange that contradicts the initial story. AppleInsider has a detailed look at what's changed in the Journal piece over the last 24 hours.