Depending on who and when you ask, the iPhone 6 may or may not ship with a futuristic new Sapphire Glass display. Widely rumored to be nigh-invulnerable, Sapphire Glass is widely believed to be the technology that will make shattered iPhones a thing of the past. But will it really?
Seeking answers, the repair experts over at uBreakiFix have taken a piece of Gorilla Glass and a piece of Sapphire Glass through a series of torture tests to see which resists damage better. And the truth is that Sapphire isn’t actually as good as Gorilla Glass in one key scenario.
The uncertainty about iPhone 6 availability this fall is largely centered around one component: sapphire. The ultra-durable material is rumored to be in not only two new iPhone models this fall, but the iWatch as well.
Apple’s only sapphire partner is GT Advanced Technologies with a relatively small operation in Arizona. According to another report, GTAT’s sapphire production, particularly for the 5.5-inch iPhone 6, will he heavily constrained until 2015.
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.
Although Apple is still expected to unveil the iWatch to the world at an October event, the actual release of the wearable may coincide with the larger 5.5-inch iPhone 6 closer to Christmas.
A key parts supplier in Asia for the iWatch is forecasting weak profits until later in 2014, which means it won’t start making parts for the device until then. As a result, the leading investment firm in Asia has drastically lowered its forecast of how many iWatches Apple is expected to ship in 2014.
While most of the other rumors about the upcoming iPhone 6 have tended to sync up with each other, one thing we’ve still yet to get a clear answer on is whether or not Apple’s next generation smartphone will feature a sapphire display.
The latest report, coming from LEDinside, claims that the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 won’t be incorporating sapphire displays, due to limited volumes of sapphire being produced this year — mostly as a result of sapphire ingot manufacturers yield rate being lower than expected, alongside other issues involved in sapphire glass processing.
Apple has been struggling to produce enough sapphire displays in time for the iPhone 6, but after going straight to the source of the freakishly indestructible glass – GT Advanced Technologies – MIT has learned of the company’s plans to use a giant machine that may solve all of Apple’s sapphire production problems, one slice of sapphire at a time.
The problem with sapphire glass is that while amazingly durable, it’s also ridiculously hard to produce in thin smartphone sized sheets. Apple’s current production methods involve taking a large chunk of sapphire and sawing it down to just a few hundred micrometers thick. It’s time consuming and wasteful, but GT’s new Hyperion 4 Ion Implanter technology could allow it to make paper thin sheets of pure crystal sapphire glass just by bombarding it with hydrogen ions.
Could it be that the much-anticipated sapphire displays for the upcoming iPhone 6 isn’t actually sapphire at all? Sort of, according to a new video posted by YouTuber Marques Brownlee.
Brownlee made waves a few weeks back when he apparently managed to get hold of one of the super-tough 4.7-inch displays reported to feature in Apple’s next generation handset, and ran it through the most brutal assault course this side of Full Metal Jacket. The display was subjected to a scratch and shatter test involving keys, a knife, and even Brownlee himself trying to bend it with his foot.
Provided the display (supplied by renowned Apple leaker Sonny Dickson) is genuine, this test suggests that the iPhone 6 screen will be considerably stronger than the displays used in its predecessors.
But it may still not be pure sapphire. Here’s why.
The iPhone 6 is widely expected to feature a sapphire glass display, but the protective material could only be offered with more expensive models that pack the most storage.
Apple’s sapphire supplier in Arizona, GT Advanced Technologies, might not be able to produce enough displays to meet initial demand when new iPhones come out this fall. While opinions are varied as to how many displays Apple will be able to make, it’s being reported that sapphire could very well only be available in the most expensive iPhone 6 models.
During an Ubuntu Town Hall Hangout on Wednesday, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth made some interesting comments regarding Apple’s sapphire displays.
“Apple just snapped up three year’s worth of the supply of sapphire screens from the company that we had engaged to make the screens for the [Ubuntu] Edge [smartphone],” he said.
For those unfamiliar with it, the Ubuntu Edge was a proposed “high concept” smartphone announced by Canonical on 22 July 2013. Canonical was seeking to crowdfund a production run of 40,000 units through Indiegogo, but the project was scrapped when fundraising was able to only raise $12,809,906 out of the $32 million goal needed to kickstart the project.