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Wistron says smartphones to be waterproof, have wireless charging this year

Taiwanese iPhone assembler sees Indian handset business breaking even in 2018

iPhone7, right, and iPhone 7 plus

TAIPEI -- iPhone assembler Wistron, a smaller rival to Hon Hai Precision Industry and Pegatron, on Wednesday said that upcoming smartphones are to incorporate a waterproof function and wireless charging. It said this in answer to a question regarding Apple orders this year.

"Assembly process for the previous generations of smartphones have not changed much, though new features like waterproof and wireless charging now require some different testing, and the waterproofing will alter the assembly process a bit," Chief Executive Robert Hwang told reporters after the company's annual shareholders' meeting on Wednesday.

Hwang did not mention Apple or the iPhone, but the Nikkei Asian Review has previously reported that new iPhones this year will be waterproof and have wireless charging.

According to Jeff Pu of Yuanta Investment Consulting and Arthur Liao of Fubon Securities, Wistron is splitting orders for the upcoming 5.5-inch iPhone with flat displays with Hon Hai, or Foxconn Technology Group.

Apple is expected to release a 4.7-inch handset with flat display and a premium version with a slightly curved screen.

Hwang said he expects his company to ship more smartphones in 2017 than 2016, without providing a number. The executive said that labor costs would continue to rise in China this year, but the company will try to cut costs by increasing the use of automation.

Wistron Chief Executive Robert Hwang says his company's smartphone business in India will break even in 2018. (Photo by Debby Wu)

Wistron is also making the iPhone SE and iPhone 6 in India, according to Yuanta's Pu. But Hwang said that India's contributions to Wistron's revenue this year will remain "very little," without providing an exact figure.

Wistron has been churning out smartphones for Chinese and local brands in India for over a year now, Hwang said, and that facility has been profitable since late last year.

Wistron's separate India facility for Apple, meanwhile, is also making "a small number" of handsets right now, although Hwang did not reveal a specific figure. Hwang said that he expects Wistron's overall smartphone business in India to break even next year.

He said whether Wistron can grow the number of smartphones it makes for Apple in India will depend on upcoming negotiations between the U.S. company and the Indian government.

A person familiar with India's smartphone landscape told the Nikkei Asian Review that the country is set to introduce a new tax system that will benefit imports at the beginning of July. In that scenario, companies may no longer enjoy lower costs through local manufacturing, and hence Wistron may not be able to ensure stellar results from its Indian operations in the future.

Still, Hwang struck a positive note about India's prospect. "We are being very aggressive in expanding our presence in India in addition to smartphone business," he said.

Apple did not respond to an email seeking comment.

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