By Tripp Mickle and Yoko Kubota
Apple Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +0.39% is asking suppliers to study shifting final assembly of some products out of China, people familiar with the matter said, as trade tensions prompt the company to consider diversifying its supply chain.
While any major changes would be difficult and could take months to years to implement, Apple is looking into the feasibility of shifting up to around a third of the production for some devices, some of the people said. Destinations under consideration include Southeast Asia, the people said.
No decision has been made on such a move, some of the people said. Any such transition, they said, is unlikely to significantly affect the iPhone in the near term because the company relies on hundreds of thousands of workers available in China to manufacture the high-volume product, which depends heavily on human hands for assembling, as well as a deep network of suppliers there.
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Apple is expected to launch updated iPhone models in the fall. Foxconn Technology Group, its biggest assembler, is starting preparations to ramp up production for those models in China, other people familiar with the matter said. Taiwan-based Foxconn said company policy precludes commenting on current or potential customers or any of their products.