iPhone with Sapphire Display Glass Reportedly in Trial Production

Earlier this week, an Apple patent application highlighted Apple's interest in potentially using sapphire as a display glass cover on future iPhones, and according to a new report [Google Translate] from Taiwan's Apple Daily, the company's assembly partner Foxconn has begun trial production on just such a device with an initial run of 100 units.

sapphire_furnaces

Furnaces for sapphire glass production

The report notes that while it is a small number of devices, the production does mark a significant step in experimentation with the material on a broader scale for Apple. The report also claims that Apple's sapphire suppliers Synopsys and Bern Optics have made significant investments in cutting machines and other equipment recently, fueling speculation that Apple is ramping up its sapphire usage. MacRumors has also heard unconfirmed word that Apple has been working with Swiss company Meyer Burger Technologies to obtain new sapphire cutting machines. Sapphire is currently used to protect the cameras on recent iPhones and the Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5s, but expanding its use to include display cover glass would necessitate a massive increase in sapphire production.

Last November, it was revealed that Apple had struck a deal with GT Advanced Technologies to build a sapphire production facility in Mesa, Arizona. That facility is not yet operational, however, with Apple still hiring its own staff and GT Advanced Technologies recruiting employees to perform the bulk of the work at the facility.

Sapphire has been seen as a potential successor to high-strength glass for display covers, although Corning claims that its Gorilla Glass 3 outperforms sapphire at lower cost. Apple has reportedly experimented with sapphire display covers at one point and found them infeasible, but improvements in the material and production technologies since that time may have convinced the company to revisit the possibility.

Top Rated Comments

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85 months ago
You know, it never made sense in the first place to construct glass out of gorillas. Constructing the glass out of sapphire seems like a notable improvement to me.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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85 months ago
With the glass being sapphire, does that mean the button will be diamond? :-)
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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85 months ago

Looks like we may see something in the 2016-2017 time frame. It seems pretty obvious this will not be a quick and easy implementation. I'm interested to see what's at the end of that road.


Tight schedule, but I think there is still time to have something for Fall 2014 produced here.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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85 months ago

OK. I've never scratched my display as it is, but perhaps I'm in the minority. The display looks as good today as it did when I opened it 2.5 years ago, and I use it all the time. I guess what I'm saying is, for me, it ain't broke, so fixing it doesn't do much for me. *shrug*


Yes, Apple should make an exception and do a production run of ONE unit with the same screen as the current for you when they make the change :)
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
85 months ago
As they are talking about using very thin films of sapphire it could be bonded to the surface of soft shatter resistant glass to make a display that is both shatter proof and scratch proof which is the holy grail for display glass. It will be interesting to see how this develops.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
85 months ago

So theoretically, what's the benefit to a sapphire display cover? More shatter-resistant? I haven't ever thought about the display on my iPhone. I don't know that using a new material that doesn't change much will be a huge selling point.


Sapphire is second only to diamond in scratch resistance.

----------

Huh?

Oh, it's a joke. Oh yeah, maybe the button will be diamond. OMG hahahahah. And then the volume button will be ruby. And then the sleep button will be amethyst. hahahahaaaa.


I believe they were getting at the fact that diamond is the only thing more scratch resistant, and thus would start with the small home button, unfortunately diamond is too expensive thanks to sellers hoarding them in unbelievable quantities in vaults to keep the price high.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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