updated 12:46 pm EST, Tue February 25, 2014
Financial forecast hints at sapphire coming to iWatch or new iPhones
GT Advanced's partnership with Apple on sapphire production is "progressing well," according to a statement in the company's latest quarterly earnings report. CEO Tom Gutierrez notes that build-out of the Apple-oriented sapphire plant in Arizona began last quarter, and that hiring started around the same time. Although he doesn't reveal when mass production will start, he says that GT should return to profitability in the second half of 2014.
That may imply that Apple is intending to use sapphire for the iWatch and/or new iPhone displays. Apple is a major GT client, and since the iPhone 4S most iOS devices have stuck to a fall release schedule; to meet demand for a fall launch, GT would likely have to begin production a few months beforehand and in mass quantities.
Apple currently only uses sapphire for camera lenses and Touch ID sensors, but rumors have strongly suggested that it wants to use the material to protect displays as well. Sapphire is even more durable than Corning Gorilla Glass -- Apple's current protective material of choice -- and would allow the company to build even thinner devices. The main drawback is cost, but production on the scale Apple requires could reduce expenses, especially with the sort of deal Apple and GT have signed.