Apple last year agreed to a deal with GT Advanced that would have them operate a facility in Arizona for the purpose of manufacturing sapphire crystal parts. When Tim Cook was asked last month if the plant was for bigger iPhone screens or an iWatch, he laughed off the reporter, saying it was for the ‘iRing’. Well now it appears Apple and GT Advanced are preparing to put the facility into motion.
Analyst Matt Margolis via 9to5Mac has secured information regarding shipments recevied by GT Advanced. They show the company accepted two shipments of ‘Intego Sirius Sapphire Display Inspection Tools’, leading us to believe Apple’s intentions are to build iPhone displays made of sapphire crystal.
It should also be noted that the partnership appears to be exclusive to manufacturing of components for Apple. An uncovered SEC filing states.
neither GTAT, nor any GTAT Related Entities, will directly or indirectly, without Apple’s express written permission: (i) supply to any entity (other than Apple) any [***], nor (ii) license to any entity (other than Apple) [***] nor (iii) provide services [***] to any entity (other than Apple) or otherwise enable any such entity to use or produce sapphire goods (whether for the benefit of such entity or for any third party), in each case for use in or in connection with Consumer Electronics Products;
Shipping data obtained by Margolis indicates GT Advanced has accepted delivery of 518 furnance and chamber systems, with an additional 420 on order. Based on these numbers, he estimates that up to 116 million displays could be produced with the existing machinery. Once the additional units are in place, production could double.
Sapphire crystal is harder than diamonds. It’s incredibly durable. Most importantly, for smartphones it is virtually scratch proof. PocketNow was able to visit GT Advanced’s manufacturing facility in Massachusets for a close-up look at the entire process.
While Apple and GT Advanced appear to moving quickly to get the facility online, it’s still unclear if the sapphire displays could make their way into the iPhone 6 expected later this year.