Apple bought '3-year supply' of 4.5" sapphire displays, says Canonical CEO

Posted:
in iPhone edited February 2014
In a conference call on Wednesday, the co-founder of Ubuntu developer Canononical made a comment about Apple scooping up the "entire three-year supply" of sapphire screens the company planned to use in a now-scrapped smartphone.

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Mark Shuttleworth let the tidbit about Apple's sapphire buying habits slip in a press teleconference regarding the firm's upcoming Ubuntu smartphone plans, reports GigaOm.

"Apple just snapped up the entire three-year supply of the same sapphire display we wanted for the Edge," Shuttleworth said. The Canonical co-founder was referencing the Ubuntu Edge, an Indiegogo project that sought funds to create the world's first smartphone running the Ubuntu operating system. Despite raising $12.8 million in the effort, the Edge was never built because funding failed to reach Canonical's $32 million goal.

Interestingly, the Ubuntu Edge called for a 4.5-inch display with proportions not in line with Apple's latest 16:9 aspect ratio iPhone designs. Shuttleworth did not disclose the exact number of displays purchased; a "three-year supply" of sapphire for an Ubuntu phone is likely a fraction of what Apple needs for a next-gen iPhone.

As for the likelihood of Apple's purported large-scale sapphire display buy, it's no secret that the iPhone maker is looking to expand use of the hard material in its products. Apple first deployed sapphire as a cover for the iPhone 5's rear-facing camera. When the iPhone 5s launched in 2013, the company announced the Touch ID fingerprint scanning security system, which features a cover glass made out of sapphire crystal.

Buying up existing stock of the material would be a logical next step in Apple's progression, but in November of 2013, the company inked a deal with sapphire maker GT Advanced Technology worth a reported $578 million. With a sapphire manufacturing plant being prepped in Mesa, Arizona, Apple and GT Advanced are rumored to be capable of producing 100 to 200 million 5-inch iPhone displays per year.

If Shuttleworth's comments are true, it can be speculated that Apple may be looking to use its own sapphire production yields for one unannounced product, while employing the purchased supply for a completely separate device. Alternatively, the buy could have been made before the GT Advanced partnership, in which case the company would have a huge sapphire surplus.

While it took Apple five generations to change the size of the iPhone's display from 3.5 inches to 4 inches, many speculate the company will once again bump screen real estate with the upcoming "iPhone 6." Rumors regarding the next-gen iPhone's exact display size are flying fast and wild, with the latest claiming Apple with launch two models later this year, one measuring 4.7 inches and another "phablet" version coming in at 5.6 inches on the diagonal.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 35
    Maybe 3 years worth of Ubuntu Edge phones.
    More likely 3 weeks worth of iPhone 6's.
  • Reply 2 of 35

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

    "Apple just snapped up the entire three-year supply of the same sapphire display we wanted for the Edge," Shuttleworth said.

     

    Bro.  You snooze, you lose.

  • Reply 3 of 35
    Maybe 3 years worth of Ubuntu Edge phones.

    More likely 3 weeks worth of iPhone 6's.

    Exactly... 3 weeks worth of iPhone 6's could be 8-10 million phones.

    Apple's done this before... they frequently order parts in huge quantities.

    Sapphire screens might be the "next big thing" in mobile... and Apple could be cornering the market on sapphire for the foreseeable future.

    Pity any smaller companies who can't afford to place a billion dollar order for parts.
  • Reply 4 of 35
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,870member
    Riiiight. The supplier just told you that because they like violating Apple's Nondisclosure clause.
  • Reply 5 of 35
    Apple bought '3-year supply' of 4.5" sapphire displays, says Canonical CEO

    I hope this title doesn't' get contorted into a rumour that Apple is building a 4.5" iPhones. The Ubuntu phone was going to be a 4.5" display -and- use sapphire for the display but that in no way indicates what display (or rather front casing) size Apple could use it for.
  • Reply 6 of 35
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 4,034member
    So 4.5" 16:9 display fits perfectly in current iPhone 5/5s chassis with standard 720p resolution to make it 326dpi (retina display).
    The question is: can Touch ID button fit in the bottom bezzel? If you look at the metal part in the back of iPhone 5/5s, it's measured exact 4.5" diagonal with 16:9 aspect ratio. Can someone photoshop to see if the bottom glass bezzel can accomodate the TouchID button?
  • Reply 7 of 35
    droidftwdroidftw Posts: 1,009member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SockRolid View Post

     

     

    Bro.  You snooze, you lose.


     

    They didn't lose anything by Apple's purchase.  The Indiegogo project has long been scrapped as the goal was unrealistic.  The project broke Indiegogo records and was the largest crowdfunding campaign ever but still didn't come close to the amount the team wanted.  Personally I think they were more interested in the publicity then the actual phone due to thier overly ambitious goal.

  • Reply 8 of 35
    Just because Apple bought all the future opinion on 4.5" display, doesn't mean they are making a 4.5" phone.
    You can cut 4" display from the same giant panel 4.5" cut from. It just require a 90 degree rotation, and it will be a 13% more than cutting into 4.5"
    In other words: if the next iPhone is made in 4.5", they will made 1 millions less iPhone for every 8 millions 4.5" iPhone is made.
    Tim Cook wasn't really worry about the color or balance: same giant panel = same quality, just bigger battery and brighter backlight.
    He could be worried about how he can make up with the drop at production with a bigger screen
    And unless he got few more display factories in his control, or the new iPhone mass production start at March, he can't.
    P.S. That's also why some popular big screen phone has worse coloring: bigger panel=need more production time=lower quality to speed up the process
  • Reply 9 of 35
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,609member

    Not credible.

  • Reply 10 of 35
    This article should be titled: "Useless company claims Apple bought all the parts they never were going to be able to, and they were dumb enough to tell someone about it."
  • Reply 11 of 35
    fallenjt wrote: »
    The question is: can Touch ID button fit in the bottom bezzel? If you look at the metal part in the back of iPhone 5/5s, it's measured exact 4.5" diagonal with 16:9 aspect ratio.

    This definitely seems more likely than 4.7" then.

    I can't stop thinking this "phablet" (5.x") size will be for a cellular-connected iPod touch, more akin to the cellular iPad. With FaceTime audio and iMessage, never mind all other messaging and calling apps, it could be time for such a device. Differentiating the iPod into a "new" product category for Apple, whether or not it's called the "iPod", could be very lucrative for Apple. It could also fit the key demo that have historically bought the iPod for games, "media-consumption" and lack of a phone contract. The iWatch would replace the shuffle and perhaps even the nano, filling out the line.
  • Reply 12 of 35
    So this looks like the right size to me... 4,5" can fit into iPhone 5 dimensions and it will doesn't make mess with resolution as 4,5 inch display at 326 ppi is exactly 720p.
    I think it's the right choose as they can work on efficiency of the display instead of making insane resolutions and it would also put less stress on GPU...

    So we will get an tiny, thin light iPhone 6 with bright 720p screen and killer GPU performance and huge, thicker than iPhone 5 and over 130 g android flagship with dim 1440p displays(that flushes the battery) and GPU performance that is lower than last year 1080p flagships !

    Not many people will notice the difference between 720p and 1440p display, but [B]everyone[/B] will notice difference in battery life, the form factor and GPU performance.
  • Reply 13 of 35
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member
    Canonical and Apple both badly wanted that sapphire, huh?

    Does that mean it's now officially a conflict mineral?
  • Reply 14 of 35
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,526member
    ". . . it's no secret that the iPhone maker is looking to expand use of the hardened material in its products. . . ."

    AI Staff: Sapphire comes into the world already hardened because it's an aluminum oxide crystal. You can't make it harder. We don't say diamond is hardened, do we?
  • Reply 15 of 35
    lerxtlerxt Posts: 186member
    I think some people here need to let go "it" and consider that Apple was once where Canonical is now.
  • Reply 16 of 35
    clemynxclemynx Posts: 1,510member
    Eheh, that wouldn't surprise me if it were true.
    Apple is truly the innovation leader. Not 'inyourface' innovation, but true, life changing, everlasting innovation.
  • Reply 17 of 35
    hill60hill60 Posts: 6,992member

    Vertu phones have used sapphire for many years, small screens by today's standards and niche, high priced luxury phones.

     

    hmmm, Android, I wonder if they are still owned by Nokia?

     

    The thing is sapphire might be hard and scratch resistant but how brittle is it?

     

    Maybe such a large screen will need to be a sandwich of flexible gorilla glass with a top layer of sapphire to try and get the best of both worlds.

  • Reply 18 of 35
    4.5 inch? For the new iPod Touch will be nice!
  • Reply 19 of 35
    steven n.steven n. Posts: 1,222member
    fallenjt wrote: »
    So 4.5" 16:9 display fits perfectly in current iPhone 5/5s chassis with standard 720p resolution to make it 326dpi (retina display).
    The question is: can Touch ID button fit in the bottom bezzel? If you look at the metal part in the back of iPhone 5/5s, it's measured exact 4.5" diagonal with 16:9 aspect ratio. Can someone photoshop to see if the bottom glass bezzel can accomodate the TouchID button?

    So long as the phone itself gets no bigger, do what you want with the screen size.
  • Reply 20 of 35
    froodfrood Posts: 771member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by hill60 View Post

     

    Vertu phones have used sapphire for many years, small screens by today's standards and niche, high priced luxury phones.

     

    hmmm, Android, I wonder if they are still owned by Nokia?

     

    The thing is sapphire might be hard and scratch resistant but how brittle is it?

     

    Maybe such a large screen will need to be a sandwich of flexible gorilla glass with a top layer of sapphire to try and get the best of both worlds.


     

    I work with quite a bit of industrial sapphire to look into plasmas in vaccuum chambers.  The stuff we use is probably quite a bit thicker than what is planned for phones, but it is virtually indestructible.  I could throw it at the ground as hard as I can (much less accidentally drop it) and it is not going to scratch, crack, or show any signs of damage.

     

    From that perspective I think sapphire is a great choice for a phone.  The only question to me is cost.  As I understand sapphire is around $30-$40 more per screen than the equivalent Gorilla glass.  Does Apple think they can get the cost down to equivalent?  If not, do they plan on raising the price of the iPhone or are they going to absorb it with lower margins?  There may be quite a bit of savings in not having customers return phones with broken screens- but doesn't Apple currently charge for those repairs and/or upgrade phones when users come in with a broken screen?

     

    Other than cost, I think it is a great choice of material and will add to Apple's cache of 'Premiumness'

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