Apple is pushing the trade envelope by asking a Chinese manufacturer to double production of its new AirPods Pro earbuds to meet holiday demand.
In addition, Apple wants Luxshare and another Chinese company, Goertek, to increase production in their Vietnam factories of less expensive AirPods.
Chinese suppliers in 2018 made up for 41 of Apple’s top 200 suppliers, according to a Nikkei Asian Review analysis. Apple’s earbuds hold about 45% of the wireless earbud market. About 80 million Apple earbuds will ship in 2020, according to GF Securities.
Apple’s continued reliance on Chinese manufacturers shows the complexity of international trade and pokes a finger in the eye of U.S. trade negotiations with China. President Trump has long urged U.S. companies to manufacture goods in the U.S., but many electronics manufacturers have been working with partners for decades in China and other countries.
The new AirPods Pro earbuds, launched Oct. 31, cost $249. Deliveries are backlogged on the Apple website, with the earliest delivery on Jan. 3 in some locations. The Pro devices come with a charging case and noise cancellation technology enabled by an Apple-designed H1 chip with 10 cores. Apple describes the result as “incredibly low audio processing latency that enables real-time noise cancellation.” They come with silicon tips to block out sound, although some reviewers said they were concerned that the tips will collect ear gunk.
Consumer Reports said the new Apple AirPods Pro “don’t meet the audio quality of our top pick for true wireless sound, the Samsung Galaxy Buds, which sell for around $130.” The Samsung model doesn’t come with noise cancellation, however.