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Regarding Recode’s Report That ‘No Defective Apple Watches Reached Consumers’

Strange piece reported by Dawn Chmielewski for Recode, on the faulty taptic engines plaguing Apple Watch production, starting with the headline: “No Defective Apple Watches Reached Consumers”:

Apple identified a flaw in a critical component of its Apple Watch before any of them were shipped to consumers, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

This certainly makes it sound as though Chmielewski has her own sources for this story, and isn’t just repeating what the WSJ reported earlier today.

The part, known as the taptic engine, produces a subtle tap on the wrist to alert the wearer of an incoming message or other notification. Quality assurance testing revealed that some of these components supplied by AAC Technologies Holdings in Shenzhen, China, would break over time, the Wall Street Journal reported.

But now she’s attributing it to the Journal. This strikes me as vague sourcing — does Chmielewski have her own “people familiar with the matter” or is she only re-reporting from the WSJ? (Update: I think what happened — think — is that after the WSJ story broke, Apple contacted Chmielewski, Moorhead (see below) and the WSJ itself (see “Update 1”, below) to emphasize, off the record, that the problem was identified before the defective taptic engines were shipped to customers. But the sourcing on this story doesn’t make clear what’s coming from the WSJ’s original report and what’s coming from these new sources “familiar with the matter”.)

Apple has shifted production to a second supplier, Japan’s Nidec, which didn’t experience this problem, according to the Journal.

“I believe no faulty Apple Watches were shipped to consumers,” said Patrick Moorhead, founder of Moor Insights & Strategy. “I don’t think this is damaging at all.”

As I experienced firsthand, and as I’ve heard from at least one DF reader (whom I know and trust), some watches shipped to consumers do have faulting taptic engines. That doesn’t mean it’s a widespread problem, of course. When you make millions of anything, there are surely all sorts of rare problems that crop up. And for all I know, the failed taptic engine in my first review unit might have been from Nidec, not AAC Technologies.

What struck me about this quote, and Recode’s decision to base their headline on it, is how would Patrick Moorhead — an independent “technology analyst” — know whether any of the faulty taptic engines from AAC shipped to consumers? Is he just speculating based on the fact that there aren’t widespread complaints? If he really is in a position to know this information, should Recode explain how he knows it?

I don’t know how anyone outside Apple would know whether faulty or possibly faulty taptic engines from AAC shipped to consumers. But signs suggest that some of them — even if just a handful — did ship.

Update 1: The WSJ’s report breaking this story has been updated with a new third paragraph, which wasn’t there in earlier revisions:

Apple doesn’t plan a recall, because there’s no indication that Apple shipped any watches with the defective part to customers.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015