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Thank You, Millions Of Anonymous Chinese Workers Making $2 An Hour, We Love Our iPhone 5s!

Editor's note: This post originally appeared on

Apple reported on Monday that it sold 5 million iPhone 5 devices in just 3 days since the product's launch -- a new record for the tech giant but also 3 million short of most Wall Street estimates. A good percentage of those phones are made by Chinese workers at Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group's plants.

Millions of these phones are now in the hands of rich consumers in the 7 lucky countries that got the iPhones first.

And, for the most part, these customers love them.

As well they should!

Because, relative to what we all carried around as recently as 6 years ago, the iPhone 5 is nothing short of a miracle.

So, it's time to send a thank-you note to the folks who made our iPhones.

Apple and its shareholders have been thanked already, billions of times over, and they'll get thanked even more in the months ahead. The iPhone is the most profitable product in history. And it has made Apple the most valuable company in the world.

It's time to say thank you to the people who actually made the iPhones--as in, put them together.

In other words, the millions of Chinese workers who have worked feverishly to assemble millions of iPhones part-by-part over the past few months.

Assembling iPhones isn't exactly a high-glamour job. In fact, it's an exhausting, backbreaking, and mind-numbingly tedious job. And, unfortunately, making iPhones is not a job that pays enough to enable the folks who make the iPhones to actually buy an iPhone. (Even a crappy old iPhone 4 would be way out of reach for the people who make them, because it's ~$400 without a contract).

Monday morning Foxconn was forced to close its Taiyuan plant in China after a riot broke out at one of its worker dormitories according to news reports. Foxconn employees make Apple devices in addition to other products by Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard. At least 2,000 workers were involved in the brawl that supposedly broke windows at the factory and forced paramilitary policy trucks to patrol the area.

So, on behalf of the millions of us who just got our new iPhones, here's a big 'thank you' to the millions of people who made them.


By the way, if you don't believe that making iPhones is a tough, thankless job, read the description below, from someone who briefly helped make your iPhone.

A reporter for a Shanghai newspaper spent a week working in a Foxconn factory helping to build iPhone 5s.

He described the working and living conditions as a "nightmare," and he couldn't quit soon enough.

The reporter's story was translated by MicGadget, and you can read the whole thing here. We've also written a summary here.

The report doesn't reveal anything horrific or shocking, but unlike many Foxconn stories, it really makes you understand how godawfully boring, difficult, tedious, and physically strenuous the work is, especially when you remember that it pays only $2 an hour.

Yes, hundreds of thousands of people line up for Foxconn jobs. And, yes, these jobs are said to be better than working in rice paddies.

But here's a taste of what it's like:

We have reached the entrance of the production floor with a warning sign that says: "TOP SECURITY AREA". We are told that if anyone enter or exit the metal detector door and found carrying any metallic stuff on your body such as belt buckle, ear rings, cameras, handset, mp3 players, the alarm will sound and you will be fired on the spot. One of my room mate told me that his friend has been fired because he carried an USB charging cable. When I walked into the production floor after passing through the metal detector door, I heard loud sounds of machinery engines and a very dense of plastic smell. Our supervisor warned us: "Once you sit down, you only do what you are told". The supervisor finally present us the back of the iPhone 5 and shows it to all of us and said: "This is the new unleashed iPhone 5 back plate, you should be honored having the chance to produce it"

Our line is being assigned to use masking tapes and plastic stoppers to cover up the earphone jack and the connector ports of the back plate in order to prevent the paint from being sprayed onto it on the next process. Our supervisor asked us to put on our mask and gloves and see how the seniors work on it. At 11 p.m, we went for a supper and after midnight, we started work again. I'm being assigned to mark placement points on the iPhone 5 back-plate using an oil-based paint pen. I'm being scolded many times for spilling too much oil on the markings. My roommate has being assigned to paste the masking tapes of not more than 5mm wide on the right spots that I have marked. And he has being scolded many times for pasting them too slow. Our supervisor said that these works were actually being assigned to females workers with nimber fingers, but due to too many workers have resigned lately they have no choice but to assign these jobs to male workers.

An iPhone 5 back-plate run through in front of me almost every 3 seconds. I have to pickup the back-plate and marked 4 position points using the oil-based paint pen and put it back on the running belt swiftly within 3 seconds with no errors. After such repeat action for several hours, I have terrible neckache and muscle pain on my arm. A new worker who sat opposite of me gone exhausted and laid down for a short while. The supervisor has noticed him and punished him by asking him to stand at one corner for 10 minutes like the old school days. We worked non-stop from midnight to the next morning 6 a.m but were still asked to keep on working as the production line is based on running belt and no one is allowed to stop. I'm so starving and fully exhausted.

By my own calculations, I have to mark five iPhone plates every minute, at least. For every 10 hours, I have to accomplish 3,000 iPhone 5 back plates. There are total 4 production lines in charge of this process, 12 workers in every line. Each line can produce 36,000 iPhone 5 back plates in half a day, this is scary … I finally stopped working at 7 a.m. We were asked to gather again after work. The supervisor shout out loud in front of us: "Who wants to rest early at 5 a.m !? We are all here to earn money ! Let's work harder !" I was thinking who on earth wants to work two extra hours overtime for only mere 27 yuan (USD$4) !?