Apple rumored to use sapphire screen for 'iWatch,' but not next-gen iPhone

Posted:
in iPhone edited February 2014
New reports out of the Far East suggest that while Apple is currently trialing iPhone units bearing sapphire-covered displays, the material will make its debut on the so-called "iWatch" rather than on the company's next-generation handset this year.

ASF
GT Advanced Technologies' ASF sapphire furnace, the equipment thought to be in use in Apple's new Arizona plant.
Source: GT Advanced


Price is said to be the deciding factor, as Apple has apparently been unable to devise a way to add sapphire to the iPhone without substantially increasing the device's cost. The rumors cropped up on a number of Chinese websites and were first noted by GforGames.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple has reportedly not run into similar issues with the still-unannounced iWatch. The rumors indicate that the wrist-worn device's 2-inch diagonal display will in fact bear a protective sapphire layer, much like the sapphire crystals used in other high-end watches.

Taiwanese media reported late last month that Apple's primary iPhone manufacturing partner, Foxconn, had successfully completed assembly testing of prototype iPhone units with sapphire displays. At the same time, Apple's existing sapphire suppliers were seen making significant investments in equipment and tooling thought to point to a large order from Cupertino.

It was then revealed that Apple had taken delivery of a substantial number of sapphire furnaces and inspection equipment at its new Arizona sapphire manufacturing facility. Some industry analysts speculate that, once fully operational, the plant would have enough capacity to manufacture sapphire display components for as many as 200 million handsets per year.

Apple currently uses sapphire as a lens cover for the iPhone's rear-facing camera and as a protective layer over the iPhone 5s's flagship Touch ID feature.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 59
    ceek74ceek74 Posts: 323member
    iWatch, iWait, iWant, iWill buy.
  • Reply 2 of 59
    steven n.steven n. Posts: 1,102member
    In other news, people still have no clue to what Apple is up to.....
  • Reply 3 of 59
    irelandireland Posts: 17,547member
    I'm gonna go on record and say I'd bet that iPhone 6 [I]will[/I] include a sapphire glass display. You don't spend an initial upfront investment of a half a billion for watch displays. Why? Because the iWatch won't cost $700 a pop, that's why. iWatch and iPhone 6 both will have sapphire glass. And keep in mind, too, that this half a billion investment on Apple's part is just the initial disclosed investment in this technology. They may announce more payments as they are required by law to do so. After all that's the only reason we knew about this investment in the first place. Tim Cook spoke about it after those documents were published and the cat was out of the bag.
  • Reply 4 of 59
    mknoppmknopp Posts: 257member
    Given that if the analyst are even off by a factor of ten on the production capabilities then I don't know that I believe that the next iPhone will not have a sapphire covered display. They are stating that Apple has the capability to make 200 million ~5" handset display covers per year. If they were only doing a watch face then that equates to ~1.2 billion watch faces per year. Now, if they are off by a factor of ten then that equates to ~120 million watch faces per year. That is a ridiculously large number of watches to expect to be sold in their first year of release.

    My point is that the production capability that Apple is said to have is too large to be for just watch faces.
  • Reply 5 of 59
    Makes perfect sense.
  • Reply 6 of 59
    irelandireland Posts: 17,547member
    samirsshah wrote: »
    Makes perfect sense.

    Not really.
  • Reply 7 of 59

    Primarily thanks to 9to5Mac research, this year we have been introduced to a lot of positive, forward-thinking information about Apple's research and development in the medical field that could be tied to the mythical iWatch. Then yesterday the "subtle" nudging towards less medical functionality being included in the unannounced iWatch began to surface... http://forums.appleinsider.com/t/161981/rumor-apples-iwatch-team-grows-to-200-people-device-wont-be-regulated-by-fda

     

    There have also been several positive, forward-thinking articles about the sapphire plant in Mesa, Arizona being about to manufacture a LARGE number of synthetic sapphire iPhone display covers. Today we are provided this article.

     

    If the release pattern of these "less functional" types of articles remain true to form, the pace of the articles will increase as we get closer to the Mobile World Congress event on February 24th.

  • Reply 8 of 59

    I am going to go on record once more. Apple will never release a watch. They may release a device that is worn on your wrist, but it will no more be a watch than an iPhone is a clock.

  • Reply 9 of 59
    tbelltbell Posts: 3,146member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post



    I'm gonna go on record and say I'd bet that iPhone 6 will include a sapphire glass display. You don't spend an initial upfront investment of a half a billion for watch displays. Why? Because the iWatch won't cost $700 a pop, that's why. iWatch and iPhone 6 both will have sapphire glass. And keep in mind, too, that this half a billion investment on Apple's part is just the initial disclosed investment in this technology. They may announce more payments as they are required by law to do so. After all that's the only reason we knew about this investment in the first place. Tim Cook spoke about it after those documents were published and the cat was out of the bag.

     

    I neither agree or disagree with you, however, I assume it takes a bit of time to set up all that fancy equipment. I also suspect Apple would want to make sure the production capacity can live up to expectations. There is also the issue of making sure the quality of the product is not at issue. It would be a huge risk for Apple to commit to sapphire glass displays on its iPhone because  problems with the manufacturing output or end product would be a very expensive mistake. Testing the glass out on a less high scale product probably makes more sense. With all that said, maybe Apple will feel confident that this new glass manufacturing project can handle the demand. 

  • Reply 10 of 59
    mknopp wrote: »
    Given that if the analyst are even off by a factor of ten on the production capabilities then I don't know that I believe that the next iPhone will not have a sapphire covered display. They are stating that Apple has the capability to make 200 million ~5" handset display covers per year. If they were only doing a watch face then that equates to ~1.2 billion watch faces per year. Now, if they are off by a factor of ten then that equates to ~120 million watch faces per year. That is a ridiculously large number of watches to expect to be sold in their first year of release.

    My point is that the production capability that Apple is said to have is too large to be for just watch faces.


    According to Eric Virey, analyst at Yole Development, Apple's "Project Cascade" will have the capacity to build between 80 to 100 million displays per year at full capacity. With just over half of the capacity in place within the next few months, Apple may be able to produce as produce between 23 to 28 million displays this year if production manufacturing commences by June which seems unlikely. I do not understand why those who are quoting him and those quoting persons who have quoted him have inflated the numbers so dramatically.

    Most notably, sapphire is not an appropriate coating for a smartphone. Seemingly, the damage occurring to the displays of smartphones is caused by shattering as much as by scratches. Although sapphire is extremely hard it is also extremely brittle thus susceptible to shattering caused by impact damage. A watch is typically much less susceptible to shattering caused by impact damage.

    I believe it is likely that this significant investment by Apple is to ensure the capacity for sapphire TouchID and the rear camera of the iPhone as much as future products. The rumored problems with production capacity for TouchID may well be related to the production of sapphire.
  • Reply 11 of 59
    kent909 wrote: »
    I am going to go on record once more. Apple will never release a watch. They may release a device that is worn on your wrist, but it will no more be a watch than an iPhone is a clock.

    Considering this is Apple we're talking about and not Timex I think that's a given...
  • Reply 12 of 59
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    ireland wrote: »
    I'm gonna go on record and say I'd bet that iPhone 6 will include a sapphire glass display. You don't spend an initial upfront investment of a half a billion for watch displays. Why? Because the iWatch won't cost $700 a pop, that's why. iWatch and iPhone 6 both will have sapphire glass. And keep in mind, too, that this half a billion investment on Apple's part is just the initial disclosed investment in this technology. They may announce more payments as they are required by law to do so. After all that's the only reason we knew about this investment in the first place. Tim Cook spoke about it after those documents were published and the cat was out of the bag.

    You may end up being correct but your reasoning is faulty.

    Why would Apple say, "If we invest $578 million in a sapphire plant we need to use in an iPhone in 2014, not 2015, or it's a pointless endeavor"? That makes no sense. Apple has a long history of starting small and then growing. In 2006 you would have said they can't release an iPhone that doesn't have 3G cellular capabilities.

    You can look at many of Apple's acquisitors to see that they take the slow and steady road. It was years until we say that $278 million PA Semi investment turn into anything and when it did it was first a small portion of the Apple A-series chip which they expanded each year. That $278 million was a larger portion of Apple's value than the $578 million they recently purchased the sapphire plant for.

    You haven't even considered why Apple would spend $356 million on AuthenTec to only use in one model of iPhone. You need to ask yourself why Apple would have made such a large investment for a component that would be beneficial in all devices with a home button and then not use it all devices with a home button. The simple answer is they simply can't make enough of a given quality to satisfy all their needs, so why assume that because Apple is investing in sapphire (something commonly used for watch faces) that it would pointless to release this year on just a watch when they are still working on issues to maximize efficiency, thinness, sizes, production rates, etc. that would make producing a 4 to 5" iPhone display at the thinness needed for a phone as compared to the much smaller, thicker, and lower production units needed for a watch face?

    The correct answer is they will only utilize it in the next iPhone if they can make enough at a given quality and cost to warrant its inclusion.

    kent909 wrote: »
    I am going to go on record once more. Apple will never release a watch. They may release a device that is worn on your wrist, but it will no more be a watch than an iPhone is a clock.

    Is the iPhone not a phone even though it's just a part of an single app and does a whole lot more than make and recieve calls? I think so which is why I would also say the iPhone is a clock and that am iWatch would also tell time and therefore be a watch.
  • Reply 13 of 59
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,464member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by MacBook Pro View Post





    According to Eric Virey, analyst at Yole Development, Apple's "Project Cascade" will have the capacity to build between 80 to 100 million displays per year at full capacity. With just over half of the capacity in place within the next few months, Apple may be able to produce as produce between 23 to 28 million displays this year if production manufacturing commences by June which seems unlikely. I do not understand why those who are quoting him and those quoting persons who have quoted him have inflated the numbers so dramatically.



    Most notably, sapphire is not an appropriate coating for a smartphone. Seemingly, the damage occurring to the displays of smartphones is caused by shattering as much as by scratches. Although sapphire is extremely hard it is also extremely brittle thus susceptible to shattering caused by impact damage. A watch is typically much less susceptible to shattering caused by impact damage.



    I believe it is likely that this significant investment by Apple is to ensure the capacity for sapphire TouchID and the rear camera of the iPhone as much as future products. The rumored problems with production capacity for TouchID may well be related to the production of sapphire.

     

    Sapphire is quite appropriate when laminated with another substrate, which might be glass or lexan for all I know. This is stated or implied by most of the earlier stories on sapphire. I haven't read anything lately that would suggest otherwise.

     

    I do have doubts that Apple can ramp up this fast for iPhone 6 production, but there is not doubt that the scope of the production is beyond wearable devices and the iTouch sensor.

  • Reply 14 of 59
    If the a in 4s was for Siri, and for security in the 5, then am I wrong for thinking it'll be for sapphire in the 6?

    They are gonna run out of features that start with an s soon
  • Reply 15 of 59
    justp1ayin wrote: »
    If the a in 4s was for Siri, and for security in the 5, then am I wrong for thinking it'll be for sapphire in the 6?

    They are gonna run out of features that start with an s soon

    1) Why assume that Apple requires a major feature that starts with the letter 'S'?

    2) Siri arrived with the 4S which came out after the 4, and TouchID (which you've dubbed Security) which arrived with the 5S came out after the 5. So why assume that the iPhone 6 will get something that starts with 'S'? Even within your own established system it doesn't add up.
  • Reply 16 of 59
    solipsismx wrote: »
    1) Why assume that Apple requires a major feature that starts with the letter 'S'?

    2) Siri arrived with the 4S which came out after the 4, and TouchID (which you've dubbed Security) which arrived with the 5S came out after the 5. So why assume that the iPhone 6 will get something that starts with 'S'? Even within your own established system it doesn't add up.

    Cause it's a damn message board, if we aren't assuming things on rumors (assumptions), then what the hell are we doing here.

    Plus I like how my idea sounds.
  • Reply 17 of 59
    macbook pro says

    "I believe it is likely that this significant investment by Apple is to ensure the capacity for sapphire TouchID and the rear camera of the iPhone as much as future products. The rumored problems with production capacity for TouchID may well be related to the production of sapphire."

    my addition "and silicon."

    To ireland,

    I should have put my reasoning with my comment,

    Apple's need for Sapphire essentially quadruples if iPhone 5S becomes a $100 phone with iPhone 6 introduction and if Apple decides to put Touch IDs on iPads. On top of that if Apple improves the cameras on iPads the need goes to six times. So Apple is investing havily in Sapphire.

    There is also a chance that Apple has figured out a way to bond Sapphire with an almost shatterproof material. Then that needs to be field tested. Then what a better way than to put sapphire on iWatch which is just like other high quality watches to test the results.

    If that experiment succeeds then we have an almost indescrutible iPhone. And Apple will not field test it on an iPhone, which is their premium product. On the watch it makes sense because others have put sapphire on it.
  • Reply 18 of 59
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by kent909 View Post

     

    I am going to go on record once more. Apple will never release a watch. They may release a device that is worn on your wrist, but it will no more be a watch than an iPhone is a clock.


    well - it nothings truly obvious - because it remains a rumor....

    but then according to your comment of record, the iPhone isn't really a phone, since i bet most people spend more time emailing, browsing, and playing on an iPhone than they do using it as a 'phone'

  • Reply 19 of 59
    tmay wrote: »
    Sapphire is quite appropriate when laminated with another substrate, which might be glass or lexan for all I know. This is stated or implied by most of the earlier stories on sapphire. I haven't read anything lately that would suggest otherwise.

    I do have doubts that Apple can ramp up this fast for iPhone 6 production, but there is not doubt that the scope of the production is beyond wearable devices and the iTouch sensor.

    Of course there is doubt.

    Please provide evidence that Apple will eventually have the capacity to produce sufficient amounts of sapphire for 200 million 5" display devices.
  • Reply 20 of 59
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,739member
    I don't think he was being entirely s for serious.

    Re. Sapphire, if TouchID is rolled out across the next iPhone plus both sizes of iPad later this year then Apple are probably going to double their need for home buttons. They may be smaller than whole screens, but they need to come from somewhere too.
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