While anyone who has bought an iPod, iPhone, or other Apple product has seen the note on the company’s packaging that its products are designed in California, that doesn't mean they're manufactured there. But answering the question of where iPhones are made isn't simple.
Assembled vs. Manufactured
When trying to understand where Apple manufactures its devices, there are two important concepts that sound similar, but are actually pretty different: assembling and manufacturing.
Manufacturing is the process of making the components that go into the iPhone. While Apple designs and sells the iPhone, it doesn't manufacture its components. Instead, Apple relies on manufacturers from around the world to deliver individual components. The manufacturers specialize in particular items—camera specialists manufacture the lens and camera assembly, screen specialists build the display, etc.
Assembling, on the other hand, is the process of taking all of the individual components built by the specialist manufacturers and combining them into a finished, working iPhone.
With so many individual components going into creating an iPhone, it's not possible in a short article to list every manufacturer whose products are found in the phone or exactly where those components are made (especially because sometimes one company will build the same component in multiple locations). Some of the suppliers of key or interesting parts for the iPhone 5S (according to iHS), and where they operate, include:
- AKM Semiconductor: Compass; based in Japan, with locations in the U.S., France, England, China, South Korea, and Taiwan
- Bosch Sensortech: Accelerometer; based in Germany, with locations in the U.S., China, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan
- Broadcom: Touchscreen controller; based in the U.S., with locations in Israel, Greece, the U.K., the Netherlands, Belgium, France, India, China, Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea
- Cirrus Logic: Audio chips; based in the U.S., with locations in the U.K., China, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and Singapore
- Corning: Gorilla Glass screen overlay; based in the U.S., with locations in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Taiwan, The Netherlands, Turkey, the U.K., and the United Arab Emirates
- LG: LCD screen; based in South Korea, with locations in Poland and China
- Murata: Wi-Fi chip; based in the U.S., with locations in Japan, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, India, Vietnam, The Netherlands, Spain, the U.K., Germany, Hungary, France, Italy, and Finland
- Qualcomm: Camera, chips to connect to 3G/4G/LTE networks; based in the U.S., with locations in Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, and more than a dozen locations through Europe and Latin America
- Samsung: A-series processor; based in South Korea, with locations in the U.S.
- Sharp: LCD screen; based in Japan, with locations in 13 countries
- Toshiba: Flash memory; based in Japan, with locations in over 50 countries
The components manufactured by those companies all around the world are ultimately sent to just two companies to assemble into iPods, iPhones, and iPads. Those companies are Foxconn and Pegatron, both of which are based in Taiwan.
Technically, Foxconn is the company’s trade name; the firm’s official name is Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd. Foxconn is Apple's longest running partner in building these devices. It currently assembles the majority of Apple's iPhones in its Shenzen, China, location though Foxconn maintains factories in countries across the world, including Thailand, Malaysia, the Czech Republic, South Korea, Singapore, and the Philippines.
Pegatron is a relatively recent addition to the iPhone assembly process. It is expected to build about 30% of the iPhone 6 orders in its Chinese plants.
As you can see, the answer to the question of where iPhones and iPods are made isn't simple. It can boiled down to China, since that's where all the components are assembled and the final, working devices come from, but it's actually a complex, nuanced worldwide effort to manufacture all the elements that go into an iPhone.