iPhone users, prepare to say goodbye to cracked screens, phone cases and stick-on screen protectors! The next incarnation of the iPhone, what many are calling the iPhone 6, is rumoured to come equipped with an indestructible display made from sapphire.
It has been known that Apple planned to use sapphire in their new iPhone for quite some time. However, many speculated that the material would be used on a much smaller scale for things like improvements to home-button fingerprint recognition and the camera sensors, like how sapphire has been employed in the iPhone 5s. New information from GT Advanced Technology’s manufacturing plant, however, contradict these ideas.
Documents from GT Advanced show the company’s manufacturing plant receiving a shipment of 518 crystal furnaces designed to process sapphire. These machines are different from the ones used to create the smaller crystal components in the current incarnation of the iPhone, and are specifically designed to handle the fabrication of display components. This first shipment is said to be able to produce a yearly total of up to 116 million five inch displays per year, but they are still waiting for a second shipment of an additional 420 machines, which would nearly double this output.
Last year, GT Advanced and Apple entered into an exclusive partnership with respect to the manufacturing of Consumer Electronics, so these new crystal displays are very unlikely to be used in any other company’s devices. The indestructible sapphire display will be one of the headlining features of the iPhone 6 and possibly Apple’s other mobile devices as well.
Sapphire is one of the hardest naturally occurring materials on the planet, second only to diamond, and has been talked about quite a lot recently with regards to its potential use as in the screens of mobile devices that would naturally resist cracks and scratches. Until recently, sapphire has been too expensive to manufacture and process in order to produce the display components, and Gorilla glass, an option roughly 10 times less expensive, has been the go-to material. GT Advanced has come up with a way to lower the cost of the screens, without losing all of the effectiveness of the sapphire.
Apple has patented the concept of sapphire laminates, super thin sheets of sapphire that will cover another cheaper material that will be used to thicken the display. Rather than a solid slab of sapphire for the display, the screens will be reinforced by a sapphire laminate. This will cut costs on both the manufacturers’ and consumers’ ends without sacrificing the strength of the sapphire concept display.
Third party manufacturers, such as XGear and Aero-Gear, already create sapphire screen covers for the current and previous generations of the iPhone, but for many consumers, the cost of the iPhone is already higher than they are willing to pay, so the additional cost of the third-party sapphire display cover is a deterrent.
The inclusion of the sapphire laminate built onto the display of the next generation of iPhone will make the device’s screen nearly indestructible and eliminate the need for a protective case. Because of the manufacturing technique used by GT Advanced to keep the cost of processing sapphire displays down, the price of the iPhone 6 won’t suffer a huge increase. Though it is still speculation at this point, all evidence definitely seems to point to this being the next step in the evolution of Apple’s mobile devices.
by Robin Syrenne