An NYU student spent 6 weeks working undercover in an iPhone factory -- here's what he learned

  • NYU student spends six weeks building iPhones for Pegatron
  • Sometimes the dorms don't have water
  • New iPhone trial productions are like "torture"
  • Most workers can't actually afford a new iPhone
An Apple store employee with a customer in Chicago.
Getty Images
An Apple store employee with a customer in Chicago.

A student at NYU spent six weeks working undercover in one of Pegatron's factories manufacturing the iPhone before going public with his experience.

Dejian Zeng recently told his tale to Business Insider, which has an extensive piece on what it was like for Zeng, who worked the assembly line and shared a dorm room with roommates he sometimes didn't see for an entire month as he spent time building parts of the Apple iPhone 6s and the iPhone 7 last summer.

Here are some of the more interesting takeaways from the report.

  • Most people work in Pegatron's factory building iPhones for money to support themselves or their family. It isn't fun or enjoyable.
  • Pegatron is working hard to keep underage workers out of its factories.
  • Apple staff is there "every single day to monitor" the iPhone process... at least during trial productions.
  • Sometimes the dorms have warm water. Sometimes there isn't water at all.
  • You get yelled at if you're ever caught lying down, even if you aren't sleeping. Lay down too often and you risk getting garnished wages.
  • Trial productions are the worst. They're described as "torture" because workers are expected to produce just five phones in 12 hours, with nothing to do but stand or sit around for hours between phones.
  • Workers are vaccinated upon arrival. You can't work on the assembly line if you have HIV or if you're pregnant.
  • Six weeks on the assembly line only paid about $450, not enough to buy an iPhone.
  • Overtime does pay more, but you have to work it even when you don't want to. (Apple told Business Insider that Pegatron has a "99 percent compliance with workers working under a 60-hour work week, and Pegatron workers who make Apple products work for 43 hours per week on average.")
  • Zeng doesn't really see iPhone manufacturing working in the U.S., even if that's what President Trump wants to happen. He thinks humans would need to be replaced by machines instead.

Read more in Business Insider's full interview with Zeng.