updated 03:30 pm EST, Fri January 24, 2014
May add to complexity of iPhone manufacturing
Foxconn recently finished assembling at least 100 prototype iPhones with sapphire-covered displays, says Taiwanese publication Apple Daily. The phones were built as part of a testing effort, and are said to have been assembled at a factory in the Longhua district of Shenzhen, China. Success has two-fold significance, because sapphire adds to the complexity of manufacturing, and it suggests that Apple will indeed use the material for future displays, replacing Corning's Gorilla Glass.
AD adds that two of Apple's current sapphire suppliers, Synopsys and Bern Optics, have spent significant sums on equipment and tooling in recent weeks. Until now, the suppliers have only had to produce sapphire for cameras and Touch ID sensors.
Apple is already said to consume about 10 percent of the world's manufactured sapphire. That may explain why it contracted with GT Advanced Technologies for a new plant in Mesa, Arizona; the quantities Apple needs may be set to explode, especially if the company switches to much larger displays, as anticipated.