Apple has been placing microscopic QR codes on their iPhones since 2020, according to a report from The Information. These QR codes are engraved on the iPhone’s glass at different stages of manufacturing and help Apple track and reduce defects in its production line. The codes are the size of a grain of sand and can only be seen with special equipment. They allow Apple to track the number of units made by its suppliers and the number of defective units discarded, ultimately helping the company save hundreds of millions of dollars. The implementation of these hidden QR codes was challenging, as the engineers had to develop new techniques to ensure the codes did not weaken the screen.
The QR codes are located on various internal components of the iPhone, including the screen itself. Although they are not visible to the naked eye, they play a crucial role in Apple’s production process. The codes provide information about the origin of the components and help Apple track and reduce defects. By accurately monitoring the production process, Apple can work with its suppliers to improve quality control and reduce the number of discarded units.
Implementing the QR codes was a difficult task for Apple. The engineers initially laser-etched the codes into the glass, but this compromised the durability of the screen. Through the use of microscopic lenses with ring lights, they were able to create a more robust solution. Since the introduction of these hidden QR codes, Apple’s suppliers have reduced the number of discarded glass cover units from 3 out of 10 pieces to 1 out of 10 pieces. This significant improvement has resulted in substantial cost savings for Apple, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Overall, the addition of these microscopic QR codes has been a successful strategy for Apple in controlling its production costs.