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.
According to a new report from Digitimes, U.S.-based GT Advanced Technologies will be supplying sapphire screens for the eagerly anticipated 5.5-inch iPhone 6.
Based on Digitimes’ research, GTAT has 2,500 crystal-growing furnaces and mature crystal-growing processes that would allow them to produce enough sapphire to produce 45 million 5.5-inch covers in 2015. Cost-wise these are likely to come in at around $30, which Digitimes suggests will be a competitive price for a 5.5-inch sapphire cover in 2015.
Apple’s new patent application shows how Apple might further strengthen its sapphire crystal using an “ion implanting” method.
Whether or not the upcoming iPhone 6 will sport a sapphire crystal display or not is something we’ll have to wait to find out for sure, but the ultra-strong material used by many high end watch manufacturers is certainly something Apple has spent a lot of time investigating.
Some of those investigations have led to a new patent application published today, revealing how Apple plans a technique for strengthening glass by using an “ion implanting” method as opposed to the kind of chemical coatings used for, say, Corning’s Gorilla Glass.
According to the application, the reason for this is that the kind of traditional chemical strengthening techniques used on glass screens might not be effective when used on materials like sapphire.
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.