How Apple’s Microscopic QR Codes Revolutionized iPhone Manufacturing

Many iPhone users may not be aware of the hidden microscopic QR codes integrated into their devices since 2020. Apple has discreetly employed this strategy to optimize production costs and save substantial sums. In this article, we’ll delve into Apple’s incorporation of these minute QR codes into iPhones and how this innovation has transformed its manufacturing process.

Apple’s Strategy for Transparency in iPhone Component Production

Apple has ingeniously devised a strategy to enhance transparency concerning the production of iPhone components, including the crucial screens. Hidden from plain view, your iPhone conceals a microscopic QR code that eludes the naked eye.

iphone secret qr code

The Secret: Invisible QR Codes

The QR code on your iPhone screen is likely something you’ve never seen. The explanation is rather straightforward: these codes are so minuscule that they escape the notice of most people. Since 2020, Apple has been embedding invisible QR codes within iPhones, and the rationale behind this approach is cost control and substantial savings.

Within an iPhone, numerous QR codes are imprinted on the internal components. Importantly, you need not dismantle your device to locate them, and doing so is discouraged. These codes assume a pivotal role in furnishing Apple with detailed data regarding component origins. However, the intrigue extends further as even the iPhone screen harbors a concealed QR code.

According to reports from American media outlets, these barcodes or QR codes are etched into the iPhone glass at various stages of the manufacturing process. This strategy’s introduction as an innovation in 2020 primarily aims to assist Apple in “tracking and reducing defects” along its production line. The QR codes’ uniqueness lies in their size: they are as diminutive as grains of sand and, as expected, remain visible solely through specialized equipment or microscopes, rendering them imperceptible to users.

iPhone 11 screen

Apple’s Objective with Microscopic QR Codes

How does Apple stand to benefit from these minuscule QR codes in its production process? These codes enable the company to more accurately monitor the quantity of cover glass units supplied by its partners—Lens Technology and Biel Crystal—and assess the number of defective units that are scrapped during production.

Historically, Lens and Biel had posed challenges to Apple in determining the actual defect rate, potentially inflating production costs. In response, Apple made multimillion-dollar investments to install laser and scanning equipment at the Lens and Biel facilities. These devices serve a dual purpose: engraving the microscopic QR code onto the glass surface and scanning the cover glass upon the production process’s conclusion.

While the concept may appear simple at first glance, Apple had to make certain adaptations for successful implementation. In initial attempts, laser etching the codes into the glass compromised screen integrity. Drop tests consistently revealed that glass cracks originated from the QR code location. Apple engineers had to devise novel techniques employing microscope lenses with ring lights to circumvent this issue.


Fortunately, the outcome proved fruitful. Since the incorporation of these QR codes, Apple suppliers have managed to reduce the discard rate of cover glass units from 3 in 10 pieces to just 1 in 10 pieces. This translates to Apple saving hundreds of millions of dollars annually through this QR code solution. Beyond cost savings, this innovation furnishes greater transparency in the production process, allowing Apple to make well-informed, strategic decisions regarding quality enhancements.

In conclusion, Apple’s microscopic QR codes may be invisible to the naked eye, but their impact on production efficiency and cost savings is undeniably substantial.