Its deal with GT Advanced Technology — which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after failing to ramp up sapphire production in time for the iPhone 6 launch — has collapsed but Apple isn’t giving up on the precious gemstone entirely yet.
A report Wednesday by Focus Taiwan alleged that Foxconn’s upcoming $2.6 billion facility in central China will be churning out screens for Apple’s mobile devices that use synthetic sapphire crystals for increased durability and protection.
As Bloombereg reported last week, the Foxconn Technology Group, also known as the Hon Hai Group in Taiwan, has allocated NT$80 billion, or approximately $2.6 billion, toward a brand new plant over the course of the next two years.
The facility will be exclusively producing mobile screens for Apple, Foxconn’s biggest client, and employ more than two-thousand workers. It’s reportedly being built after “an urgent request for exclusive capacity” from Apple.
Now Focus Taiwan is casting additional light on the matter.
Apparently Foxconn has signed an agreement with the Zhengzhou city government in Henan Province, central China, to set up a display factory on a 133-hectare plot of land next to its iPhone 6 assembly plant.
“The new factory is expected to manufacture sapphire displays for the next generation of the Apple devices,” the report said. Shares of Taiwanese sapphire manufacturers went sharply up Wednesday morning following the report.
Meanwhile, the Cupertino firm continues to “cautiously evaluate” the adoption of the scratch-resistant screens to ensure that there are sufficient supplies.
Sapphire, whose hardness is second only to diamond, is expensive and difficult to produce synthetically. The GT-operated facility in Mesa, Arizona would have been responsible for more than half the world’s sapphire output had it gone operational.
Apple currently uses sapphire protection for the Touch ID Home button and the iSight camera lens. The upcoming wristwatch, both the “Watch” and “Edition” versions, also taps the scratch-proof sapphire glass screen.
[Focus Taiwan via GforGames]