SEC filings have confirmed that Apple partnered recently with a company called GT Advanced which operates a manufacturing facility in Mesa, Arizona that makes sapphire components. We also know for a fact that Apple prepaid more than half a billion dollars to buy sophisticated furnaces and equipment for the plant, securing multi-year output of sapphire parts on an exclusive basis.

Manufacture of sapphire components commenced recently, according to sources. Now, industrial-scale production like this points beyond sapphire components for the Touch ID sensor and the iSight camera lens protection.

Watchers speculate that Apple’s phablet – an iPhone 6, if you will – has a massive sapphire-hardened 5.5-inch screen. But, a new post on China’s micro-blogging platform cautions that the rising cost of sapphire display production may hinder Apple’s ability to roll out the technology across its entire iOS device lineup…

This post on Weibo [Google translate, via GforGames] cites supply chain sources as speculating that Apple’s assumed use of thin sapphire sheets to harden the iPhone 6’s 5.5-inch screen may limit handset production over high cost of sapphire as a display material.

Specifically, Chinese media reports suggest only ten million 5.5-inch iPhone 6 units “throughout the product’s life-cycle.”

“These latest reports suggest that the sapphire screen costs around 1743 yuan (or $280), which would raise the final cost of the device to about 8000 yuan (or $1285) – at least in China,” notes GforGames.

By comparison, the off-contract 16GB iPhone 5s costs 5288 yuan in China, or about $850. The 64GB variant is a 6888 yuan value over in China, or $1,106.

I’d take the report with a pinch of salt – at the reported $280, the iPhone 6’s 5.5-inch sapphire glass cover would be pricier than the entire iPhone 5s bill of materials!

Besides, it’s been reported before that Apple’s plant should churn out between 100 and 200 million sapphire displays when it reaches full capacity, so…

Keep in mind that Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said in a research note that Apple has been negotiating with wireless carriers to raise the iPhone 6 price by $100, because the handset will be “the only headline-worthy high-end phone launched this year”.

This would make the iPhone 6 start at $299 after a two-year contract rather than the $199 like the current iPhone 5s. If our poll is anything to go by, roughly 40 percent of respondents would be willing to pay a $100 extra for a 5.5-inch iPhone 6.

iPhone 6 dummy video (NowhereElse 002)

KGI Securities analyst Ming Chi-Kuo expects that Apple will reserve the sapphire display for the flagship 64GB version of the 5.5-inch iPhone 6. Kuo has a pretty solid track record: the analyst correctly predicted Apple would use sapphire to protect the iPhone 5s’s fingerprint reader.

Apple is expected to introduce two large-screened iPhone models this year, one incorporating a 4.7-inch screen and due by Fall, and a larger phablet-class device sporting a 5.5-inch screen.

Anothere rumor asserted that the larger iPhone got delayed until 2015 over various production issues dealing with ultra-thin battery components.

What do you think?

Will Apple limit sapphire use to the iSight/Touch ID protection and small-factor devices such as the iWatch, the iPod nano and so forth?

Or will it supplant Corning’s Gorilla Glass for the iPhone?

iPhone 6 dummy cases via Baidu.

  • abazigal

    I call BS on this rumour. Assuming Apple eventually migrates to sapphire glass on all their iOS devices, the savings in economies of scale will more than pay for themselves over the next few years.

    At that price, the screen better be capable of stopping a direct hit from a rail gun, because I am not sure if improved scratch resistance alone is going to be worth the extra price, especially when people can just slap on a $10 screen protector.

  • Mozaik

    Apple should keep name “iPhablet” just to piss Samsung.

    • Enlighten me on how that’ll piss Samsung…

      • Mozaik

        People will think apple made first phablet device 😉 . jk

      • James Gunaca

        I believe Samsung used the term “Phablet” in their marketing, no? Or perhaps that’s just TechCrunch’s influence on my memory…

  • Eni

    biger screen biger chance to break, so i think that apple will use the saphire glass in the next handset.

    • Jiří Málek

      AFAIK sapphire glass is scratch-resistant but more likely to shatter. So it would not be a great idea due to a bigger screen.

  • Anmol Malhotra

    I dont care about what features are included in iPhone 6… I just care about BIGGER SIZE.. if there’s iPhablet then I’m sold.. Take my money Apple!

  • Ara Rezaee

    I actually believe there is no iPhablet to begin with, but if such thing exists it wouldn’t be priced at more than $800 for the base version in the US.

  • Tobias9413

    I hate the 5.5 inch idea but the 4.7 is perfect IMO. Either way, I’ll wait a couple of weeks after they are both out and who knows, maybe since it’s an Apple product I’ll like the 5.5

  • Tony

    I am not willing to pay more for a bigger screen. There’s nothing new so far in terms of rumors for this device. Camera is basically the same, they always up the processor slightly but that’s really it. They still haven’t released a 64 bit program that can push the iphone 5s to the limit so I guess I’ll wait another year for the phone.

    • Carlos Gomes

      How can a camera with a “bigger pixels” sensor be the same? We have to stop caring so much about the number of pixels that a sensor has.
      An entry-level 10 years old 5MP camera takes better pictures than any phone available on the market.

      • mondo

        “An entry-level 10 years old 5MP camera takes better pictures than any phone available on the market.”

        That statement is utter BS!!

      • Carlos Gomes

        I forgot to mention that I was talking about an DSLR. I’m not sure about a regular point-and-shoot.

      • mondo

        todays phone cameras have surpassed 10 year old DSLR technology aswell

      • Carlos Gomes

        Oh buddy, you’re either a troll or you’ve no idea about what you’re talking about.

      • Pedro Rolinski

        Technology? Yes. Image quality? Oh boy, not even close.

  • El Matador

    If they build it. They will come. Regardless of price.
    Including myself.

  • Overt

    I’ll be looking forward to my usual £35 per month Unlimited everything contract.

  • Jason Baroni

    This is how I see it: as long as it comes with higher quality, price may be worth.

  • Dao Sasone

    Everything will always b pricey wit apple. Over rated n outdated piece of crap.

  • Joseph

    This isn’t really news; this is Apple we’re talking about, after all. Their devices being pricy for consumers is a given, not a possibility.

  • jilex

    Maybe just 40% are willing to pay the extra $100 (just in case that’s true) but more than that percentage are going to do it, is as a guy said on YouTube, apple tells us what’s the best screen size, and even if a guy says he’s not going to buy the next iPhone for that, most probably he will

  • Yujin

    That is BS. The larger screen will probably be $400 for the 16gb on contract and $100 less for each smaller size.

  • oralarts

    One new iPhone with 4.7″ inch screen at the same price points with a doubling of storage to 32, 64, 128gb.

  • mondo

    the first photo is a 5s in a real crappy case

  • It’s really mind boggling that people gladly pay such hefty off-contract prices for such ultra-portable, but totally bastardized SmartPhone PCs. This really needs to stop and only will if people stop buying them during the release month. Paying $700+ for a $250 product just makes no sense from a customer POV.

    Either ways, that’s why I always wait out the launch excitement and grab the same device factory-unlocked for $290 to $450. Glad the OnePlus One is initiating that course…

    • felixtaf

      Very true. I never bought a new phone in my life after my first smartphone (Nokia N95). I always look for a latest device in craigslist or ebay and grab them.
      Nexus, OnePlus One, Oppo have top class specs. Yet cheaper price, apart from Oppo (who turn greedy now).

  • Matt

    I will upgrade my 5s sometime obviously
    But not if the iPhone 6 will look like that
    If it does and something happens to my amazing 5s welp there are other beautiful phone out there

  • blastingbigairs

    Who cares, if it’s sick, I’ll pay the price.