Chinese smartphone maker trying to beat iPhone 6 to market with sapphire display

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As has been seen time and time again, all Apple needs to do is hint at an area it’s interested in exploring (see: smart watches) and much of the tech world will trip over itself trying to beat it to market (see: Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smart watch.)

The latest company to jump on this bandwagon is, apparently, VIVO, the Chinese manufacturer which previously released the world’s first QHD/2K smartphone. According to sources cited by the Chinese media, VIVO is taking a big swing at Apple (and, yes, the iPhone 6 was specifically mentioned) by rushing to release its new 5-inch flagship handset, with an all-metal frame and sapphire glass display.

How is VIVO able to bring out a sapphire phone so quickly, when Apple has reportedly struggled to produce the glass to the extent that we may now see iPhone 6 handsets with sapphire displays in limited quantities only? Because VIVO is producing its devices in much smaller quantities, which lets it get around a low yield problems Apple has supposedly run up against.

VIVO isn’t the only smartphone maker to try and take Apple’s competitive advantage by exploring the world of sapphire displays. Kyocera Brigadier is currently working on a new handset with sapphire display, called the Kyocera Brigadier, said to be en route to Verizon.

Then there’s the Vertu Ti, a luxury Android-powered smartphone with a starting price tag of $10,000, featuring a sapphire crystal display, titanium casing, and Bang & Olufsen sound.

Interestingly, recent reports have suggested that the iPhone 6 may not feature pure sapphire crystal displays at all, but possibly a sapphire laminate that it easier and cheaper to produce. Other reports have theorised that Apple could take advantage of GT Advanced Technologies’s new Hyperion 4 Ion Implanter technology which could make paper-thin sheets of pure crystal sapphire glass by bombarding it with hydrogen ions.

No word yet on when we can expect the new VIVO handset (which is set to cost 3998 yuan, or around $650), but many people are expecting the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 to show up September 19, with the 5.5-inch variant arriving later on in December.

Unlike the other rival phones described here, the iPhone 6 isn’t likely to be in limited supply: with Apple allegedly ordering its biggest shipment of new iPhones ever.

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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