Here’s Why Apple Suppliers Refuse to Mention It by Name

BY Chandraveer Mathur

Published 7 Mar 2022

Apple logo 2022

Apple is well known for the strict confidentiality standards it expects suppliers and partners to uphold. Simply referring to the iPhone maker by name has landed several suppliers in hot water with the company. That’s why most companies refer to Apple by nicknames to avoid breaches of multi-million dollar contracts and hefty penalties.

Apple’s strict confidentiality standards aren’t unjustified. It requires privacy to ensure its trade secrets don’t become public knowledge. It is also essential to prevent details about its new products from leaking ahead of the official reveal. To still get information out and dodge legal repercussions, suppliers reportedly make every attempt to minimize the use of Apple’s name when discussing it or its products.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the situation is so bad suppliers are afraid of naming “the big A” when discussing its services and relations. This is mainly because Apple is a prestigious, high-value client. Court filings related to the bankruptcy of former Apple supplier GT Advanced Technologies reveal that it promised to pay Apple $50 million for each breach of secrecy. The company’s agreement with the Cupertino tech giant included confidentiality of trade secrets and the very existence of the relationship with Apple. Some suppliers have publicly refused to answer pointed questions that would require them to name Apple.

Even when they must, companies reportedly avoid unnecessary mentions of Apple by its name. In its recent 860-page annual report, Foxconn mentions Apple only once. Taiwanese foundry TSMC also mentions Apple twice in its annual report, but as a bond issuer and not as a client.

A few suppliers have been fortunate to get away by making ambiguous mentions that suggest they are talking about Apple. For instance, Chinese camera module supplier O-Film mentioned the loss of business with a “customer beyond these borders,” which implied Apple. Broadcom CEO Hock E. Tan also hinted at Apple without naming the company in a June 2020 analysts call. He confirmed Broadcom made chips for “those big flagship phones” made by “our large North American OEM phone maker.” Famous display panel supplier Samsung also refers to Apple as “Lovely Opponent,” abbreviated to “LO.”

Interestingly, Apple doesn’t extend the courtesy in return. It simply calls Samsung by its name when mentioning it as a supplier. Other hilarious phrases that refer to Apple include “the fruit company,” “the big A” (just the letter), “Fuji,” “the three-trillion-dollar company,” and “the honored North American customer.”

Some suppliers and companies haven’t been as careful or lucky. In 2021, Hyundai’s talks with Apple for the rumored Apple Car fell apart after the carmaker made the mistake of publicly confirming that it was in the negotiations with Apple.

Despite Apple’s best efforts, many details about upcoming products and supply chain difficulties seep through the cracks. What do you think of the company’s secretive approach? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

[Via Wall Street Journal]