Sapphire Production Underway in Arizona, Small Quantities Shipped to Apple Partners

Apple's sapphire crystal partner GT Advanced has begun sapphire production and has even shipped small quantities of the material to an Apple partner in China responsible for making sapphire covers, according to a report from analysts at UBS Research.

Sapphire production is said to have begun last month, in March, but it appears the facility is not yet running at full capacity. GT Advanced reportedly shipped 2,200kg of sapphire, the amount produced by approximately 100 furnaces.

The company is said to be on schedule to install another 400 to 500 furnaces in the first quarter of 2014 and an additional 900 to 1,000 in the second quarter, significantly ramping up production towards the end of the year ahead of the release of both the iPhone 6 and the iWatch.

gt_advanced_technologies_banner

We estimate GT's shipment to China was only about $1M worth of sapphire last month. We believe this Apple partner needs to be receiving sapphire totalling about $50M+ per month to confirm that the GT Arizona fab is running at close to full utilization.

GT Advanced's sapphire production plant, which is financed by Apple, uses large capacity furnaces that emphasize lower cost, higher volume sapphire manufacturing. While Apple currently sources sapphire from a number of other suppliers for use in iPhone elements like the protective cover over the cameras and the home button of the iPhone 5s, GT Advanced's operation will produce much higher quantities of the material, leading many to believe Apple has big plans for sapphire.

Thus far, rumors have suggested that Apple may be planning to use sapphire crystal displays in its upcoming iPhone 6, due to the superior durability and scratch resistance of the material. A recent report from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggested supplies could be limited, however, resulting in only some models of the iPhone 6 produced using sapphire.

Sapphire may be a key component of Apple's upcoming smart watch, as it could prevent the device from becoming scratched even with heavy use. Many high end luxury watches also use sapphire crystal displays.

Reports have indicated that GT Advanced has purchased enough sapphire furnace and chamber systems to produce between 100 and 200 million sapphire displays, enough for its entire line of devices should it continue to meet its production timeline.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
84 months ago
Small quantities shipped makes sense. Thats the small batch of iWatches they are producing right now.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
84 months ago
iWatch production was said to be started too right? So obviously this may be for that.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
84 months ago
Have an Omega Seamaster Professional with a sapphire crystal display, like the other poster said, mine has been through it as well and hasn't a single scratch.
Although I know sapphire is great at not scratching it is bad at shattering. Hence the reason the 'moon watch' Speedmaster uses a Hesalite display instead of sapphire, as shattering in zero-g would create deadly shards :).
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
84 months ago

There's always room for improvement, keep that in mind ;)


I'm more than happy for there to be improvements, as long as they are actual improvements and not adding unnecessary cost or delays.

If adding sapphire means when I go to buy my next phone I have to wait for weeks because they couldn't make enough, I will be pissed because what I have works just fine.

It was like the glass back on the 4S. It was not an improvement because anytime my phone was on the least uneven surface it went sliding onto the floor.

If sapphire gets rid of scratches (that I'm not seeing anyway) and makes the screen brittle so that it cracks when I drop it (and I will drop it) then it is no improvement.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
84 months ago
At least it's made in U.S.A!
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
84 months ago

Sapphire will be a good thing for the iWatch. My teenage son has put his good watch, which has a sapphire face in it, through the ringer and it has not had any scratches appear yet. I think a teenager would be a pretty good test, especially a rough one.

Not sure how it would stand up in a phone though as a that is a large piece of sapphire and even though sapphire is pretty hard, I wonder if it would not become brittle. Time will tell how Apple is going to use it. Pretty sure the watch will be first though.


I've worn my Rolex for at least 12 years, I wear it night and day, during heavy construction, etc. I can't count the number of times I've scraped it hard against a wall or corner. Dropped it, etc. I cannot see the faintest hint of a scratch on it. Sapphire can't come soon enough to the cell phone industry, I can't wait. Just seeing how thin the ip6 is purported to be, and if it has sapphire well I'll be first in line. Same for the watch.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iPhone 12 Lineup Rumored to Be Named 'iPhone 12 mini,' 'iPhone 12,' 'iPhone 12 Pro,' and 'iPhone 12 Pro Max'

Monday September 21, 2020 5:24 am PDT by
Leaker known as "L0vetodream" has today shared the alleged naming for the upcoming iPhone 12 lineup on Twitter. The tweet proposes that the upcoming iPhone 12 models will be titled "iPhone 12 mini," "iPhone 12," "iPhone 12 Pro," and "iPhone 12 Pro Max." The names likely correspond to the three expected sizes of iPhone 12, with the 5.4-inch model being the iPhone 12 mini, the 6.7-inch model ...

iOS 14 Widgets Offer iPhone Users Creative Home Screen Ideas

Sunday September 20, 2020 8:43 pm PDT by
Updated on September 22nd with hands on video. In iOS 14, Apple introduced ‌the concept of Home Screen‌ widgets, which provide information from apps at a glance. Widgets can be pinned to the Home Screen in various spots and sizes, allowing for many different layouts. Despite the relative lack of...

Hands-On With iOS 14 Widgets, Custom Icons, and Home Screen Setup

Tuesday September 22, 2020 3:25 pm PDT by
Apple with iOS 14 introduced widgets on the Home Screen, leading to unprecedented levels of customization for the iPhone. Combined with Shortcuts that let you change an app's icon, iOS 14 lets you create a whole new look for your Home Screen. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. We've been following along with some of the creative alternative Home Screen designs that M...

PSA: New Apple Watch Owners Have to Return Entire Device for Ill-Fitting Solo Loop or Braided Solo Loop

Monday September 21, 2020 3:26 pm PDT by
With the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple introduced two new band options, the Solo Loop and the Braided Solo Loop. These new bands are unique because they have no clasps, buckles, or other fasteners, and instead use a stretch design to allow them to pull onto the wrist over the hand. Because these bands are not adjustable, Apple sells each one in nine different sizes to make sure each person...

Apple's iPhone 12 Event Could Happen on October 13 Based on Rumors From Mobile Operators

Wednesday September 23, 2020 11:51 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming iPhone-centric event could perhaps be held on Tuesday, October 13, according to information shared with MacRumors by an employee at a UK cellular carrier. There's no way for us to confirm the dates at this point in time nor are we sure on the credibility of the source, but even without a rumor, Tuesday, October 13 is a good guess based on Apple's historic launch timelines, ...

New Images Leak of iPhone 12 Braided USB-C to Lightning Cable

Thursday September 24, 2020 2:37 am PDT by
Rumors suggest Apple's upcoming iPhone 12 models will ship with a new Lightning to USB-C cable that includes a braided fabric design. Images of the purported cables were leaked in July, and today leaker Mr White has shared new images that give us a closer look at what we might get included in the iPhone 12 box. The photos show a USB-C to Lightning cable with a clearly braided design rather...

Interest in iOS 14 Home Screen Ideas Helps Pinterest Break Daily Download Record

Wednesday September 23, 2020 4:37 am PDT by
Apple's introduction of widgets on the Home Screen in iOS 14 has driven a surge in interest among users looking to customize their iPhone, and that has reportedly had a knock-on effect for Pinterest, whose iOS app has seen record downloads as users flock to its content seeking design inspiration. As reported by TechCrunch, App Store intelligence firm Apptopia was first to note the impact of ...

Apple Releases First Public Betas of iOS 14.2 and iPadOS 14.2 With New Shazam Control Center Options

Monday September 21, 2020 10:34 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the first public betas of upcoming iOS 14.2 and iPadOS 14.2 updates to its public beta testing group, a few days after seeding the first betas to developers and a little less than a week after releasing the iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 updates. Public beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing program can download the iOS and iPadOS‌ 14.2 updates over the air after ...

Apple Emphasizes That Solo Loop May Increase in Length Over Time, Updates Sizing Guide With More Specific Instructions

Wednesday September 23, 2020 8:26 am PDT by
Apple on Tuesday updated one of its support documents to emphasize that the new silicone rubber Solo Loop for the Apple Watch may increase in length over time, as mentioned in fine print at the bottom of the Solo Loop product page. Apple has also updated its printable Solo Loop sizing guide with more specific instructions, as noted by 9to5Mac's Michael Steeber. The guide now advises users to ...

Microsoft Announces Outlook for Mac Redesign, Improvements to iOS and watchOS Apps

Tuesday September 22, 2020 8:56 am PDT by
Microsoft has today announced plans to bring a new design to its Outlook for Mac app along with several other improvements and features for Outlook on iOS and watchOS. In preparation for the public release of macOS Big Sur, Microsoft has been testing a new design for Outlook on Mac. The design includes Microsoft's Fluent icons and several design cues from Big Sur such as rounded corners....