The iPhone 6 continues to spawn rumors and speculation around what new features and concepts Apple will be building into their new handset due to launch later this year. Die-hard Apple enthusiasts can hardly contain their excitement as tech writers everywhere keep fueling the fire with more and more guesses about what Apple has in the works.
The consensus seems to be everywhere that the new iPhone 6 will include a larger, curved and more durable sapphire screen. This may be some great news for those planning on upgrading to the new handset, but not such great news for the underground economy of uncertified Apple screen repairmen making a fortune from their basements and garages replacing the multitudes of broken fragile screens of past models of iPhones.
Another fact pointing to the sapphire screens is Apple’s investment into GT Advanced Technologies last year. GT Advanced is the maker of sapphire glass. This makes even more sense why Corning Glass’ Corporate Controller, Tony Tripeny and CFO, Jim Flaws, recently spoke about some of the disadvantages of using a sapphire display. Of course this is not overly surprising since Corning was Apple’s supplier of Gorilla Glass used in many of their products.
The disadvantages of using sapphire over Gorilla Glass pointed out by Tripeny were: ten times more expensive, 1.6 times heavier, environmentally unfriendly (it takes 100 times more energy to manufacture), transmits less light meaning a dimmer screen and shorter battery life, it still can be broken and it is not indestructible. In fact Tripeny said that Gorilla Glass can take 2.5 times more pressure than sapphire. The one advantage Tripeny did mention is that sapphire is more scratch resistant.
Advantages and disadvantages of a sapphire screen aside, Tripeny and Flaws seem to be defending Corning and Gorilla Glass from losing one big contract with the tech giant more so than making a marketing pitch.
Another argument exists that makes one wonder if these rumors are actually true. A report by 9to5Mac states that Apple does have enough resources and stockpile to meet the demands that consumers will generate with sales of the iPhone 6. The report also stated that GT Advanced Technologies recently ordered over 500 chambers and furnaces that are capable of producing between 103 and 116 million five-inch displays for Apple. Currently the company has 420 machines in place and the added 500 would over double their ability to more than meet Apple’s demands. The report also suggests that the manufacturer is very likely producing products for Apple exclusively which may prove the sapphire concept true.
However, others are still left wondering if there is enough sapphire in the world to make display-grade screens for the millions of devices that Apple will produce in 2014. Just because GT Advanced has the manufacturing ability does not necessarily mean they have enough raw sapphire to process nor does it take into account any type of quality control for the display grade sapphire.
This argument is backed by a report from Digitimes Research analyst, Jessie Lin. Lin stated:
“US-based GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT) is setting up a factory in Arizona for exclusive supply of sapphire to Apple, with the factory to be able to meet only 9.0-16.6% of demand for sapphire used in screen covers of a new-generation iPhone in 2014.”
Both arguments and reports seem to include facts that leave one unsure which is right to believe. A few other rumors have also been very common and they are a curved edge and a larger display to compete on a slightly more even playing field with Samsung Group’s Galaxy and Note models with larger screens. Apple is rumored to be launching the iPhone 6 in a 5” display, to compete with Samsung’s Galaxy and a larger iPhamphlet model which would be a more comparable device to Samsung’s Note.
With all the evidence exposed there is one big case building for Apple’s iPhone 6 using a larger and sapphire display. The sheer number of rumors of the anticipated larger curved sapphire display has certainly influenced much of the conceptual artwork of the speculated new device, by showing Apple’s next handset to use a sapphire display. Nobody has heard Apple deny any the rumors. However, Apple has not confirmed any rumors either and they will not be expected to confirm or deny any rumors until they actually reveal the iPhone 6 at the highly anticipated launch coming soon.
Commentary by Brent Matsalla