Apple expects the first sapphire display screens for the upcoming iPhone 6 and the company's smartwatch to be rolled out this month by a production facility in Arizona that Apple put up with materials manufacturing company GT Advanced Technologies.
The report by Daisuke Wakabayashi of the Wall Street Journal states that the sapphire display screens, which will be ultra-durable compared to the previous glass screens, will likely only be used on the more expensive models of the iPhone 6.
Wakabayashi also adds that by using the much more expensive sapphire display screens on the iPhone, Apple is making a huge bet on the appeal of the smartphone to the market.
Sapphire glass is already being used in the past versions of the iPhone, but not in the display screen. The material has been used as protection for the camera of the iPhone, as well as for the Touch ID fingerprint scanner and Home button on the iPhone 5S.
It is not yet determined how Apple will decide to use sapphire glass for the display screens of certain models of the iPhone, but Wakabayashi suggested that the memory size of the smartphones could be the criteria.
On Twitter, Wakabayashi said that, perhaps, the sapphire display screens will only be rolled out for the 32GB and 64GB models of the iPhone 6. This would allow Apple to maintain its place at the high-end smartphone market, while keeping prices low for the least expensive models of the smartphone with the least amount of memory, potentially for users converting to the iPhone from Android phones.
A sapphire screen costs $16 to produce, compared to a production cost of only $3 for the Corning Gorilla Glass that Apple has previously been using for the display screen of the iPhone. If Apple gets enough supply, the company can offer sapphire screens as a premium for iPhone buyers.
However, obtaining enough supply is proving to be a challenge for the company, especially as the Sept. 9 launch date of the iPhone 6 looms ahead in just four weeks. Apple is still having a hard time in gathering enough material, leading to rumors that the company may push back using the sapphire display screens to the production of the iPhone 6S.
To address Apple's production requirements for sapphire display screens, GT Advanced Technologies has reportedly invented a machine that can create wafer-thin sheets of sapphire that can be laminated onto the display screens of iPhones for added durability. However, it will take months before an automation system for the process is developed.