The successful launch of Apple's iPod nano MP3 player in September was marred by complaints regarding its display. Shortly after its introduction, some users noted cracks in the screen. Apple said this flaw was limited to 0.1% of all units shipped so far. But is Apple now headed for a new round of display problems with the video version of the iPod, released in October?
A dissection of the nano conducted by iSuppli's Teardown Analysis service indicated that the total unit cost of producing the 2-Gbyte nano is around $98, with the cost of components and materials estimated at about $90. iSuppli believes there are two suppliers for the nano displays, both located in Japan.
So what are the potential causes of the display-cracking problem? According to Apple, it's not a design issue. However, the display suppliers haven't been informed of faulty display claims, and no products have been short-listed for a recall.
The nano's display is a 1.5-in. diagonal, 65,000-color TFT-LCD with a pixel format of 132 by 176 and a 0.168-mm dot pitch. The display is large compared to the nano's overall size, at 3.5 by 1.6 by 0.27 in., possibly causing stress on the display.
Furthermore, the nano's display module is only about 0.095 in. thick, and there is almost no clearance between the frame surface and the front end of the LCD. Protective films enhance the structural strength of the display, though they might be weak because of the use of vinyl chloride coating instead of a hard coating. All these factors potentially could be related to the reports of cracked displays.
For the new video-enabled iPod, Apple is using a single source for the display. Apple also is in the process of qualifying a second and/or third supplier, according to iSuppli sources. This sole sourcing, along with possible supply constraints for LED backlights, might result in shipping delays for the video version of the iPod. So for the second time in as many months, displays may be a source of heartburn at Apple.