New in OS X: Get MacRumors Push Notifications on your Mac

Resubscribe Now Close

Rising Sapphire Display Cost May Limit Production of 5.5-Inch iPhone 6

A new post on Weibo citing supply chain sources (Google Translate, via GforGames) claims Apple's 5.5-inch iPhone may see a limited production volume due to the use of high quality sapphire as a display material. According to the report, the high cost of producing the sapphire may hinder Apple's ability to include the scratch-resistant material in a large number of its smartphone models.

iphone6
The report notes that Apple's sapphire display may cost 1743 yuan (or $280) in materials, which is a significant jump over the $44 estimated for the 4-inch Retina display used in the iPhone 5s. This extra expense could increase the retail price of the next generation iPhone by approximately 50 percent, which may price the smartphone beyond the affordability point for most consumers.
These latest reports suggest that the sapphire screen costs around 1743 yuan (or $280), which would raise the final cost of the device to about 8000 yuan (or $1285) – at least in China. At the moment, the 16 GB iPhone 5S costs 5288 yuan in China ($850), whereas the beefier 64 GB variant is retailed at the price of 6888 yuan (or $1106)
This rumor corresponds with an earlier report from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who suggested that supply constraints may force Apple to reserve the sapphire display for premium iPhone models such as the 64GB version of the 5.5-inch iPhone 6.

Though Apple still buys sapphire from third-party suppliers, the company is starting to produce the material in small quantities at its Arizona facility. The sapphire production plant, which is financed by Apple and operated by GT Advanced, is expected to produce between 100 and 200 million sapphire displays, enough for an entire line of devices when it reaches full operating capacity.

Related roundup: iPhone 6

Top Rated Comments

(View all)

25 weeks ago
Morons. Sapphire prices have skyrocketed because Apple has cornered the market... at a favorable price. What others would have to pay for a sapphire display is not what Apple will have to pay for a sapphire display.
Rating: 27 Votes
25 weeks ago
As a gemologist, I'm very familiar with sapphire's durability and usefulness in certain applications. They're used for high end watch crystals because they're very scratch resistant. They do chip and abrade, however. And they're not flexible. I have doubts that sapphire would provide significant net durability benefits over Corning's Gorilla Glass, and that's before cost/benefit considerations.

Count me as one who thinks that Apple's sapphire displays will remain on small screens only (iWatch, iPod Nano, etc), and won't supplant Gorilla Glass for iPhone.
Rating: 23 Votes
25 weeks ago

this wasn't thought through very well by a̶p̶p̶l̶e̶ the people reporting it.


ftfy
Rating: 22 Votes
25 weeks ago

Forgive my ignorance, but does this mean a sapphire phone won't shatter if I drop it? That's pretty huge IMO.


Oh, it'll shatter pretty nicely. It won't scratch though ;)
Rating: 12 Votes
25 weeks ago
I don't understand what this has to do with Apple when they are manufacturing the Sapphire themselves and from what I understand they build a block of sapphire using only a tiny piece of sapphire as a catalyst, it grows like a crystal so how would the cost of Sapphire affect them if they are growing their own sapphire blocks?
Rating: 11 Votes
25 weeks ago
They just won't do it, it's far to much of a jump in component cost for the benefit of what apple would see.

Providing a stronger glass does what for Apple? Are there millions of people never buying an iPhone again because the screen smashed?

It's not a big enough selling point to warrant that sort of price increase.
Rating: 11 Votes
25 weeks ago

The report notes that Apple's sapphire display may cost 1743 yuan (or $280) in materials, which is a significant jump over the $44 estimated for the 4-inch Retina display used in the iPhone 5s. This extra expense could increase the retail price of the next generation iPhone by approximately 50 percent, which may price the smartphone beyond the affordability point for most consumers.


In which case there is no way they will adopt the material. Ignoring labour cost for a second, they could replace the existing screen six times for the cost of the stronger sapphire display if breakage is a huge issue. Even labour cost should be quite low now that Apple stores are fitted with the tools to carry out such a repair. They'll adopt the material if it makes financial sense, but if the cost of a 5.5" display is that high then it'll surely be dedicated to camera lenses and the iWatch for the time being. Stronger displays are nice, but not for a 50% cost increase.

Alternatively the estimated cost is grossly inaccurate.
Rating: 9 Votes
25 weeks ago
Sounds like someone is trying to force Apple to move the plant to china!!
Rating: 7 Votes
25 weeks ago
Mark my words.
There will not be a 5.5" iPhone.
Rating: 7 Votes
25 weeks ago
Apple has purchased 100's of Sapphire furnaces from Advanced GT. This is a done deal and a fixed cost. To get Sapphire you just need to add heat, staff, a building and large quantities of Allumina powder... On which one of these has the price changed?

I guess there could be a problem with manufacturing yield but I think the technology is quite mature.

This whole story sounds dodgy to me.
Rating: 6 Votes

[ Read All Comments ]