Apple opened a sapphire plant in Arizona a few months ago in collaboration with GT Advanced Technologies, and actual sapphire production started last month, in line with earlier initial plans. UBS estimates there were just 100 sapphire furnaces running last quarter, and 400 to 500 more are to be installed in the first quarter of 2014, and then another 900 to 1000 in the second trimester.
Apple could sapphire instead of Gorilla Glass for the display of the iPhone 6Apple currently uses sapphire to cover the lens on the iPhone 5s camera, as well as for the home button. With such large capacity, though, rumors are that Apple will use sapphire for the display of the iPhone 6, in place of the current Corning Gorilla Glass cover. Sapphire is said to have better physical properties, being less prone to damage and tougher to break.
Another analyst, Matt Margolis, estimates that Apple is actually ahead of schedule with sapphire production and its plant will run at full capacity even sooner since most of the furnaces were shipped in the December to February time frame. Interestingly, Apple is also allegedly buying sapphire from the GT Arizona plant at prices some 25% lower than what it pays to other vendors.
Speculations also run rampant about what additional benefits these sapphire panels might bring. We’ve heard suggestions (and seen patents) about sapphire being used with solar panels, so that your iPhone could recharge itself on the sun. Sapphire is also rumored to be used in the alleged Apple iWatch. Is any of those rumors true, though? Only time will tell, but one thing that seems certain is that Apple will be using more and more of sapphire, the world’s second hardest material after diamond, in its devices.
Apple first started shipping sapphire (from GTAT's Arizona plant) to partners in China in Q1
source: UBS Research via 9to5Mac