Why the iPhone 6 lacks a sapphire display

By

Photo: Roberto Baldwin/The Next Web.
Photo: Roberto Baldwin/The Next Web.

One of the biggest disappointments from Apple’s announcements yesterday was the lack of a sapphire screen for the iPhone 6. A seemingly-neverending string of part leaks and rumors indicated that 2014 would be the year the iPhone got a nearly indestructible sapphire display cover.

And while sapphire is used for the Apple Watch’s display, Apple made no mention of sapphire for the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus.

What happened?

According to a knowledgable source, it all came down to a last-minute problem in the manufacturing process.

“The plan as of several weeks ago was to include a sapphire covered iPhone 6 in yesterday’s launch”

“The plan as of several weeks ago was to include a sapphire covered iPhone 6 in yesterday’s launch,” said Matt Margolis, a senior research analyst at PTT Research and sapphire specialist who has been following Apple’s production closely. “The issue that emerged is that the finishers were still having trouble creating the sapphire edges and yields were only at 25% or less.”

Last year, Apple opened a giant sapphire plant in Mesa, Arizona with GT Advanced Technologies. The writing on the wall was obvious: a lot of sapphire planned for new products. The iPhone only made sense.

YouTube videos showing iPhone 6 sapphire displays resisting knife scrapes got the world excited for more durable iPhones. A recent survey showed that that most-wanted feature from consumers in the iPhone 6 was a sapphire display.

Suppliers overseas were confident that the iPhone 6’s display would be made of sapphire leading right up to this week’s Apple event. Cult of Mac was sent parts and specs that confirmed a sapphire display, and plenty of mainstream publications piled on the sapphire-is-coming-train too.

Over the last month, GT shipped large quantities of sapphire to Biel and Lens, the two companies tapped to perform the iPhone’s sapphire screen finishing. Biel and Lens currently procure and finish sapphire for the iPhone’s camera lens and Touch ID sensor.

A delivery confirmation from September 7th provided to Cult of Mac shows a shipment of 80,000 deficient sapphire screens heading back to GT from Lens Tech in China.
A delivery confirmation from September 7th provided to Cult of Mac shows a shipment of 80,000 screens-worth of deficient sapphire heading back to GT from Lens Tech in China.

“I have been told the issue was not on GT’s side of the house but solely resides within the finishers involved in the process,” explained Margolis. “My source also indicated that the yield issues can be addressed and worked out but it remains to be seen when Apple will release a sapphire covered iPhone.”

Reports out of Asia said Apple was facing sapphire production problems leading up to Tuesday’s Apple event. To accommodate, some said Apple would limit sapphire displays to higher-end iPhone 6 models. Then it was reported that GT’s sapphire production wouldn’t be fully ramped up until 2015.

Regardless of sapphire not showing up in the iPhone 6’s display, GT “will continue to push out as much sapphire as humanly possible from Mesa,” said Margolis. It’s only a matter of when Apple will choose to give the iPhone a sapphire cover.

The Apple Watch is in good hands too. “The sapphire produced from the Arizona sapphire facility is sufficient enough to cover well north of 60 million Apple Watches annually once it is fully ramped up by early 2015,” he said.

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  • FootSoldier

    Why?…Because Apple never said it would an iPhone with sapphire screen.

  • Bubbler

    This article reads like a GTAT press release, trying to deflect blame onto some other company when it knows that Apple will never say a word.

  • Dumbinho

    Because it will be on the 6S. Every S version meant something. Speed on 3GS. Siri on 4S. Sensor on 5S. Next sapphire on 6S. :)

    • Jhabril_Harris

      I don’t know who came up with that bullshit

      • Dumbinho

        It’s called sarcasm

      • Paul

        Which will be the star feature of the 7S!

      • JM

        You need a wink, not smile to indicate your intent was sarcasm.

  • Robert Johnson

    THey need to have something so people will buy the iPhone 6S

    • http://mysite.verizon.net/vzepr1xp/index.html unsean

      Trust me. The iPhone 6S will sell just as well as the iPhone 6 before it, and the iPhone 5S and 5C, whether or not it comes with sapphire glass (though that’s an awesome selling point).

      And I think that it’s great that certain aspects of the process if giving Apple trouble. This means that the likelihood of it being copied by anyone without the financial resources of Apple gets just a bit more remote.

  • iDude

    I can’t help but think that Jobs would have willed the sapphire manufacturers into getting this done. A seemingly small but important difference between him and Cook. Think about the polish of even the original iPhone.

    • mahadragon

      Jobs would have gone absolutely Ape shit if that sapphire didn’t make it into iP6. The Cookster is just a nice guy.

    • Grunt_at_the_Point

      One thing is for certain….Jobs is not walking through that door. Get over him. It does not matter what Jobs would have done. Besides, Gorilla glass is fine.

    • Jim

      Stop posting these ridiculous opinions about what Steve Jobs would have done. Christ, it’s so annoying. Unless you’re personally in contact with Steve Jobs’ ghost please, please stfu.

  • Mohammad Ridwan

    Bcuz it costz le muney..

  • Graham

    The little blackie lied to us.

    • iphone

      racist much…

  • Matt

    I don’t understand this excitement for a sapphire screen?! For a watch it makes complete sense. When a watch is strapped to your wrist, the watch is protected by the sapphire from scratches, if you knock your wrist against anything (except a sharp diamond!).

    From everything I’ve read a sapphire iPhone screen will shatter just as much as a Gorilla Glass iPhone if you dropped it.

    The majority of people’s problems with their screen is smashing it when it’s dropped, not the odd scratch, well from my experience of my own phone and friends.

    Plus (I don’t know how true this is, but) Corning have shown that sapphire is heavier than Gorilla Glass, so is scratch prevention a priority over weight?

    It just sounds like people hear the word SAPPHIRE and just assume that it will make a better phone?

    I’d be all for it if someone could tell/prove to me that it wouldn’t shatter my iPhone screen if I were to accidentally drop it!!

    • Windlasher

      Yeah, Because that extra .0001g of weight is going to make you not buy the phone. Gorilla Glass is reaching for Sh*t, to preserve their market.

      • Matt

        I just read that Sapphire might increase the weight of the phone, if the screen were to be made from Sapphire instead of Gorilla Glass. So at least 10 grams heavier, that is if the Sapphire were the same exact dimensions as the glass on the iPhone 5/5S. Which, you’re right, it really isn’t much in weight, albeit much more than 0.0001g.

        However nice the idea of my phone being more scratch resistant, I’d much prefer it being shatter-resistant, which from what I read, Gorilla Glass is more shatter proof than Sapphire.

        And on the basis, I’m sure Apple wouldn’t produce a phone that is LESS shatterproof than the previous model.

      • Matt

        After reading some more information on this, according to one report, the iPhone would weigh 10% heavier if it were to have a sapphire screen instead of a Gorilla Glass screen, if it were made to the same exact size. So only around a 10 gram difference. So it isn’t much (obviously much more than 0.0001g).

        Regardless of weight, I would much rather have a shatterproof phone than a scratch proof one, seeing as myself and friends have accidentally dropped our phones and smashed the screen. No one I know of (which is a ridiculously small percentage of the hundreds of millions that have iPhones) has scratched their iPhone screen, or at least not to the extent that it was such a problem, that they needed to advertise it to anyone.

        So my only point here really is if Apple is bothering to replace the screen with a Sapphire one, then why go to the effort and cost if it just solves a problem that the minority of owners have (scratching the screen, not smashing it)?

      • Whatever

        Maybe apple might do some “only apple” shit like combining regular glass with 2 sheets of super thin sapphire to make one thin piece of glass. So the phone will be scratch and shatter resistant.

  • Bob Level

    Despite all the jokes and hate here, I appreciate that Apple, unlike some companies, decided not to rush the sapphire display out the door if it was not up to specs. Get it right and when it’s ready, the buyers will be there.

  • http://www.etextloan.co.uk/ Alexander Zeus

    Apple is the best

  • http://www.designstrategies.com Len Williams

    What’s the big deal with sapphire screens? I’ve had an original iPhone and a 4S for years, and neither screen shows any scratches even after years of hard use. I’ve never used a screen protector and I carry my phones in my right front pants pocket all the time. I’m just not dumb enough to also try to shove in my keys, coins and other items in the same pocket–and even then, Gorilla Glass is tougher than the hardness index of metal. Leave the corundum sandpaper out of your pocket and you’re good to go.

    I’m not bummed about the iPhone 6 not having sapphire because it’s not a problem that needed to be fixed. Sapphire won’t make the screen any less shatterproof. Why all the emotion about a situation that didn’t really need fixing in the first place?

    • Ron Williams

      Just get yourself a case for the phone if you guys are so worried about phone or screen breakage. I’ve been with Apple since the 3GS and no scratched or shattered screens. The only screen that I had broken since cell phones first became available was on a Motorola Razor. I really liked that phone but the screens were crappy. I want the functionality of the iPhones and I’m not interested in showing it off to the world by carrying around a “naked” iPhone. I’ve used Otterboxes and like cases for years.

  • NapMan

    “YouTube videos showing iPhone 6 sapphire displays resisting knife scrapes got the world excited for more durable iPhones.”

    Marques Brownlee did a follow-up to this video trying to scratch the screen with different materials. He used materials softer than sapphire (like garnet and emery) and they did scratch the screen. His feeling was that the screen he had was not pure sapphire. It might not have been made with any sapphire at all.

  • JohnbMtl

    It was pretty clear during GT’s earnings call that there was no way they would be ready for iPhone 6 production. Apple starts production to fill the pipeline in August.

    ——–
    FROM THE TRANSCRIPT:
    “We do not expect to reach full operational efficiency in Arizona until early 2015.”

    “The fourth prepayment from Apple is contingent upon the achievement of certain operational targets by GT. GT expects to hit these targets and receive the final $139 million prepayment by the end of October 2014. ”

    ———–

    Apple would not bet it’s August iphone production on a component that would not reach operation efficiency until 2015 and operational targets in October.

    This “analyst” has been pumping this stock for quite a while. He spews out all sorts of information from his ” inside sources”. And, as mentioned by another commenter, a lot if his reports look like they have been cut and pasted from a company press release.

    At one point he even suggested that Apple would be offering the sapphire screen as an option. Could you even imagine Apple saying you can buy the iPhone with the screen that can be scratched for $x and the unscratchabke screen for $xx. Anybody that has the least bit of knowledge about the way Apple markets their products knows that this is a total fabrication.

    A later theory that he came up with was that sometime in mid-product cycle Apple would switch to a sapphire screen, so GT’s current year earnings would still benefit. How’s that for grasping at straws?

    I suggest that people be wary and not give too much credibility to this analyst from PPT Research (by the way, that stands for “Poised To Triple”. Should be “Pump The Thing”.

  • Chuck McGinley

    This makes no sense to me.

    Why is the sport version of the iWatch not using a sapphire crystal then? Look it up if you don’t believe me.

    I believe it’s because the ION implanted gorilla glass is probably more shatter resistant than the sapphire. Phones get dropped. Sport versions of the watch will take a beating playing sports. I would expect to wear mine while playing ice hockey so I could get full credit for all the sweating and the workout.

    I think it has to do with the shatter resistance than the cost.

    • Jim

      It’s because it’s lighter, very obviously. The sport version is also made out of aluminium which is much lighter than the stainless steel and gold in the other options. Shatter proof is less of an issue on a watch than scratch proof. A watch is much less likely to get a head on hard impact than a phone is but it’s much more likely to rub off an abrasive material. It’s literally only about weight on the sport version. Nothing else.

  • TeeJay1100

    Because they need more money from you!! So they left it out purposely for the 6S. Apple puppets

  • Bert

    Sapphire would be a terrible material for a phone screen. Yes, it’s very resistant to scratching, due to its extraordinary hardness. That same hardness makes the material very brittle. It would be MUCH more likely to shatter when dropped than other types of glass. It’s a great material for watches, but lousy for phones. Be thankful Apple didn’t do it.

  • ACC

    RESIST WATER FIRST BEFORE MAKING IT KNIFE RESISTANT!!!

  • Graham

    The Gorilla lied to us.

  • Rob

    Mesa building is not built yet.