Apple copycats put off by its sapphire woes

Apple copycats put off by its sapphire woes

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Indestructible iPhone screens are still in the works. Photo: Marques Brownlee
From beloved material to pariah, no-one wants to touch sapphire now Apple's ditched its plans.

The start of any innovative business should be identifying a service that the current market leader in the sector is not supplying.

With Apple’s failure to provide sapphire displays for its latest iPhones — thanks to the spectacular collapse of now-bankrupt supplier GT Advanced Technologies — you’d think that other smartphone makers would be climbing over one another to bring sapphire-enhanced smartphones to market; demonstrating that they can do what Tim Cook and his billions of dollars weren’t able to.

Which is why it’s something of a surprise (or perhaps not!) to hear that Apple’s troubles with sapphire displays has pretty much discouraged other companies from trying the same thing.

The observation comes courtesy of a new report from Digitimes, which notes that other companies in the sapphire supply business are feeling the pinch as smartphone makers who planned to follow Apple’s example are now “reconsidering plans” to adopt the ultra-durable material for their future devices’ screens.

Since hearing about Apple’s plans to use sapphire as a material, many manufacturers in China have reportedly been “aggressive” about pouring money into expanding their sapphire-producing capacities since early 2014. Now that sapphire smartphones are off the menu, it is unknown how these sapphire companies are going to find downstream partners to use their products.

With the apparent demise of GT Advanced as a viable option — particularly since it accused Apple of making it sign an “oppressive” contract — Apple has reportedly turned to two other China and South Korea-based companies to produce the sapphire it still needs. While iPhones with sapphire displays are unlikely to arrive any time soon, Apple still plans to use sapphire for some of its higher-priced Apple Watches, set to ship early 2015.

All in all, the mini sapphire smartphone display boom is a great example of how Apple not only shows many other companies the areas to explore — it also demonstrates the ones they should leave well enough alone.

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