According to a new report from The Guardian, it has been revealed that the sapphire glass for Apple’s upcoming iPhone 6, which is expected to be unveiled in September, will go into mass production as early as this month.
The report says that to create the ultra-tough sapphire crystal for the displays of the forthcoming iPhone 6, Apple (AAPL) has a $578 million deal with the manufacturer of sapphire crystal growth systems GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT), which has built a plant powered by renewable energy in Mesa, Arizona. However, the publication notes that GT will reach full operational capacity in early FY2015, suggesting that sapphire supply may be limited initially.
“The build-out of our Arizona facility, which has involved taking a 1.4 million square foot facility from a shell to a functional structure and the installation of over 1 million square feet of sapphire growth and fabrication equipment, is nearly complete and we are commencing the transition to volume production,” GT CEO Thomas Gutierrez told investors earlier this month. Neither Apple nor GT have commented on the matter, but according to another report from The Wall Street Journal, Apple has spent around $700 million to make sure they’ll be stocked with enough sapphire displays for when mass production of the iPhone 6 begins. Citing Eric Virey, a senior analyst at French research firm Yole Développement, the report notes that the switch for Apple from about $3 per Gorilla Glass display to a $16 per sapphire crystal screen will be an expensive one.
“Nobody has ever invested this much money on sapphire,” Virey was quoted as saying to the Journal.
Earlier this year, KGI securities’ analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a great track record in revealing Apple’s future product plans, mentioned that the 64GB model of the 5.5″ iPhone 6 will be the device to be graced by sapphire glass display. This indicates that Apple will use the Gorilla Glass 3 in the basic 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 models. The Journal claims Cupertino has ordered an initial batch of up to 80 million handsets, its biggest first run production ever.
Apple shares are up less than 1% today, trading at $98.76 as of 10:29 am ET.