Forget about spending money on scratch-proof screen protectors and bulky cases, Apple's
next iPhone device might end up being tough as nails. Nothing is carved in stone, of course, though it appears Apple is wanting to outfit the iPhone 6
with a scratch-proof sapphire crystal display. It would be much tougher than current displays, which are prone to shatter and crack when dropped.
Apple last year inked a deal with GT Advanced to open a manufacturing facility
in Mesa, Arizona. At the time, an Apple spokeswoman said the new plant would be used to "make components for Apple products," adding that it would also run on 100 percent renewable energy.
According to 9to5Mac
, Apple will build sapphire crystal components at its new plants, and now just for the Touch ID fingerprint readers and caps for camera sensors. Based on leaked documents and import/export records, Apple wants to build full-fledged displays with the sapphire crystal material.
"Lowering manufacturing and fabrication costs of sapphire is a key driver for accelerating the adoption of its use in new market segments such as cover screens for smartphones and mobile devices. GT Advanced Technologies is working with key downstream technology providers to optimize fabrication processes and technologies to lower the cost of sapphire cover screen material," leaked documents detailing inspection tool components explain.
The machines GT Advanced ordered will allow them to inspect the sapphire crystal components to make sure they meet Apple's quality standards. According to 9to5Mac
, the machines in question are not for small pieces of sapphire crystal that could be used for the Home button or camera, but are designed to process several slabs of screen covers.
An obvious downside to sapphire crystal is cost. It's about 10 times more expensive than Corning's Gorilla Glass, which is why today's displays don't use sapphire crystal. However, citing a MIT Technology Review
article, Time points out
that GT Advanced found an alternative that involves using pure sapphire to laminate an ultra-thin layer of sapphire with another, cheaper material.