GT Advanced Technologies’ (GTAT) filed for bankruptcy in 2014 and closed its sapphire plants, which has led many analysts to believe that Apple has scrapped the idea of releasing an iPhone with the material in the near future. Sapphire screen supply chain players in China and Japan however have been continuing to prepare related equipment and materials, according to various Chinese media reports. While this is only rumor as of now it should be noted that such a possibility could come to fruition in 2015 since Apple did not specifically said that it has abandoned plans to adopt a sapphire screen for its smartphones.
Makers including Lens One and Biel Crystal have both significantly expanded their numbers of equipment for back-end cutting, grinding and polishing services recently and their moves are believed to be for the preparation for smartphone sapphire screen production, the reports said.
Is it possible though that Foxconn Electronics will be the manufacturer of Apple’s new sapphire screen smartphone for 2015? The company is Apple’s main assembler and both companies could benefit from such a move. The reports have not let out any specific details on this matter other than short quotes from Terry Guo stating that such a move is “unlikely” at this stage.
Currently, Apple’s home button, camera lens and Apple Watch’s sapphire protection layers are supplied by players such as Harbin Aurora Optoelectronics Technology, Monocrystal, STC, Chongqing Silian Optoelectronic Science and Technology, Guizhou Haotian Optoelectronics Technology and TDG, all of which could be likely contenders for supplying the technology in 2015.
China’s government meanwhile recently announced it will supply upstream makers with subsidies for expanding production on the material and component front, which could mean that such makers could get a major boost to further develop facilities and expand production for relevant orders.
It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if Apple relies more on China in the future given the nation’s track record over the last two years in regards to investments in panel technology research and expansion. Capacity at local makers has doubled within 2 years and is expected to triple over the next year which means that Apple could get panel supply from there and then utilize a more complete chain to receive parts such as sapphire.
Corning’s Gorilla Glass 4 is currently used on Apple’s iPhone 6, which is known for its durability and scratch-resistant surface. As the company continues to strengthen its glass and add features such as anti-bacteria functions Apple may very well keep to such surface glass for its iPhones as well as feature it on its MacBook, iPad and iMac series.
Apple needs something like sapphire screens however to keep its innovative edge rolling in the market but it may take longer than expected for the technology to appear due to bottlenecks. In fact, due to such bottlenecks Apple delayed its Apple Watch into “early 2015” albeit the company being quiet about the matter. The whole sapphire supply scenario has been in shambles over the last year and will need to stabilize before Apple can consider mass producing millions of devices with it, otherwise it could potentially see product delays and a loss in performan