GT Advanced (furnaces, Pocketnow 001)

With a larger of the two jumbo-sized iPhones rumored to arrive later this year rocking a massive 5.5-inch screen, Apple’s adamant to buy huge amounts of thin sapphire laminates, likely to strengthen the handset’s cover glass. We know Apple invested nearly $500 million in high-tech furnaces and equipment for its Arizona sapphire plant.

The firm is operating the facility in partnership with GT Advanced.

We’ve also known that Apple and GT have signed an exclusive multi-year agreement and now Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth has gone on the record claiming that Apple has acquired three-year supply of sapphire screens…

Shuttleworth said in an interview with GigaOm:

Apple just snapped up the entire 3-year supply of the same sapphire display we wanted for the Edge.

He was referring to the Ubuntu Edge, a flagship handset which broke crowdfunding records, but never got made.

A report earlier this month looked into Apple’s equipment purchases for the Mesa plant, estimating the facility should produce at least a hundred million five-inch sapphire screens for the next iPhone.

Some watchers have mentioned twice as much sapphire screens.

Corroborating rumors published by Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal, a report earlier this week by The South China Morning Post asserted that both a 4.7-inch and a 5.5-inch iPhone model will use sapphire crystal for screen protection.

Contradicting the claim, Taiwan’s Economic Daily News said today that only the bigger model will use sapphire-strengthened screens via Apple’s partnership with GT Advanced. This phablet-style device apparently won’t use the iPhone branding, if Economic Daily News is to be trusted.

Citing Apple’s reliance on the expensive gemstone for cover glass protection, the story also speculated that supply of the device would be limited at launch.

Apple currently uses sapphire crystal to protect its Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5s and the iSight camera lens on iOS devices from scratches, nicks and dings.

Looks like sapphire protection is going to be one of the defining design features of the next iPhone.

  • Taf Khan

    Who needs Gorilla Glass… Not Apple!

    Will be interesting to if see others follow Apple in using Saphire glass.

    • smtp25

      Thought saphire glass was more sratch resistant but not as crack resistant as Gorilla

  • Laszlo Gaspar

    This whole different name business is seeming more and more likely, but what could they call it?

  • n0ahcruz3

    If they implement this i will not buy screen protectors anymore. Same thing with cases

    • XboxOne

      I would still get a case if I were you.

    • DJ Focus

      Sapphire glass is actually more likely to break if you drop it, its just a lot more scratch resistant. So yeah you won’t need a screen protector but unless the phones reinforced with titanium you’ll still need a case.

    • smtp25

      Aluminium still dents and scratchs when you drop it

    • momerathe

      I’ve never used a screen protector or a case, and my 4S still looks like new.

      (I did break the screen on my 3GS, but it was nearly 3 years old at that point which IMO is an acceptable loss rate)

  • Doc Michaels

    The only positive of sapphire vs. GG is durability. Once Corning starts covering phones with flexible, 3D, antimicrobial, anti-glare, thinner, lighter glass, nobody’s gonna care if you’ll be able to throw your phone down the stairs without it breaking.