Sapphire screen unlikely for iPhone 6

TIM BIGGS
Last updated 14:45 30/07/2014
Ciccarese Design

A rendering of what the rumoured 4.7 (middle) and 5.5-inch (right) iPhones might look like next to the iPhone 5S.

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Despite persistent rumours and a few now-famous online videos, a group of analysts have shattered expectations that the upcoming iPhone 6 will feature a screen made of super-hard sapphire glass.

Near-impossible to break and extremely resistant to scratches, the material grown from synthetic sapphire is widely considered to be a tougher choice than the Gorilla Glass used in current iPhones, however it is very expensive and difficult to mass produce.

Analysts from market researcher Trendforce say that while the iPhone 6, like the iPhone 5S, will use sapphire for its camera lens and fingerprint scanners, they simply haven't seen enough of the material moving through the supply chain to indicate it will cover the next generation of Apple's flagship phone expected to launch in September.

"The much anticipated sapphire cover glass remains missing from the picture", the analysts said in their report.

"Analysis of the iPhone 6 supply chain indicates related component suppliers need to ship products to OEMs for assembly in June 2014 to meet the September launch date. Yet, the research institute did not discover demands for smartphone cover glass."

The report also casts doubt on the idea that the long-awaited Apple smartwatch could implement a sapphire glass screen, citing issues that would arise from combining a small panel of the material with flexible OLED displays.

Hutch Hutchison, the head of design and concept creation at British manufacturer Vertu, explained to UK's Telegraph that Sapphire is desireable but, given it is considered to be the third-hardest mineral, it can cause complications.

"It is virtually impossible to damage and it will maintain a perfect, scratch-free finish for many years," Hutchinson said.

"It can take two weeks to grow each boule [a single crystal ingot] and the yield from each is low. It is also very difficult to cut, grind, and polish; diamond tools have to be used for all of these processes."

The iPhone 6 is widely believed to be arriving in September in both 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screen models, which would make them the biggest phones Apple has produced. It is also expected to offer much superior battery performance compared to previous models.

Meanwhile the iWatch, which may sport a curved screen, was all-but confirmed earlier this month when Apple hired one of the most high-profile executives in the luxury watch industry.

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