By Jim Karpen on Wed, 02/26/2014
If Apple pulls this off, it's doubtful that any other phone manufacturer will be able to match it anytime soon. Forbes reported today that the iPhone 6 will indeed come with a sapphire crystal coating on the display. This material is nearly indestructible, and would make it virtually impossible to scratch the display. That would really set the iPhone apart, and is just the sort of touch that Apple adds to their products to foster consumer love. Apple is already using sapphire crystal to cover the camera lens and Touch ID to avoid scratches.
The evidence Forbes offers is recent statements made by the CEO of GT Advanced Technologies, which will be manufacturing the sapphire crystal in the facility in Arizona that Apple invested in. Revenue forecasts indicate that GT's income will jump by a factor of about 20 between the first half and second half of this year. That means the company plans to have a huge surge in demand. And since Apple is their primary market right now, what else might one infer other than they will be providing sapphire crystals for the 100 million-plus iPhone 6 units that Apple is expected to make this year? Given that Apple is known to have lined up sapphire crystal from other sources as well, it must be the case that this huge inventory of the material is intended for the iPhone. They wouldn't need nearly that much sapphire for the camera lens, Touch ID, and display for the rumored iWatch.
Of course, no one knows for sure, and all this is conjecture. But the evidence just keeps getting stronger. And possibly Apple itself doesn't yet know for sure, and it will depend on how well things go in trial runs on the plant floor. But I'm hoping it's true, because it would be a great step.
The Forbes article also notes that another implication of the recent statements from GT Advanced Technologies is the timing of the release of the next iPhone. Based on when GT expects their revenue increase, it almost certainly indicates that the iPhone 6 won't be coming in the first half of this year, as many had been hoping, with some rumors even suggesting as early as May. Instead, the indication is that the new phone will likely be launched in September, which is on par with the iPhone launches of recent years.
The new factory in Arizona built by Apple and GT was expected to start production this month and employ 700 workers. GT expects revenues to be over $1 billion in 2015, up from anticipated revenues in the range of $700 million this year, with most of that being in the second half of this year.