A new report from DigiTimes Research is claiming that GT Advanced, the company that has partnered with Apple to open a sapphire plant in Mesa, Arizona, will only be able to produce anywhere from 9% to 16% of sapphire displays for Apple's next generation iPhone. The report's estimation was based on the company's forecast sales of $188 to $348 million, which indicates that Apple will be able to output roughly 6.3 to 11.6 million sapphire displays.
Assuming that the new-generation iPhone will have a 5-inch screen, then the forecast sapphire revenues are translated into output of 6.27-11.6 million 5-inch sapphire-made screen covers. As Digitimes Research estimates that Apple will ship 70 million units of the new-generation iPhone in 2014, the output of sapphire screen covers frm GTAT will account for 9.0-16.6% of the iPhone shipments.
However, the details in the report strongly contrast that of an account from analyst Matt Margoils last month, who stated that GT Advanced purchased and received a total of 518 sapphire furnace and chamber systems with another 420 machines on order.
The analyst estimated that with the sheer amount of the equipment contained in its factory, GT Advanced could produce between 103 and 116 million displays per year, with an additional 84 to 94 million possible. This would indicate that Apple could produce 100 to 200 million ~5-inch sapphire displays, which would be enough for its entire line of devices. For reference, Apple sold approximately 150 million iPhones in 2013.
The integration of a larger, scratch-resistant sapphire display is widely rumored to be one of the key new features for the iPhone 6, as the company currently uses the material for small iPhone elements such as the camera lens and the home button of the iPhone 5s.
Apple is also said to be in the process of a trial run for an iPhone using a sapphire display, as CEO Tim Cook indicated during last month's shareholders meeting that the company's sapphire production facility was for a "secret project" he could not talk about. Apple's next-generation iPhone is expected to be revealed later this year.
Update: Analyst Matt Margolis calls Digitimes' analysis "meritless", noting a number of issues such as a lack of any specific sapphire revenue disclosures from GT and Digitimes' unrealistically high estimated cost per display.