Before its official launch, one of the most hyped features of the iPhone 6 was its sapphire glass. The device is now officially out — see the first batch of iPhone 6 units arriving in the US — but it lacks the strong scratch-resistant ‘glass’ (actually it’s a single crystal of transparent and synthetically made sapphire), which leads to the question: Why? PTT Research analyst and GT Advanced investor Matt Margolis has an explanation.
As it turns out, the original plan — from “weeks ago” — included an iPhone 6 with sapphire glass. But then issues emerged: The finishers (Lens and Biel) were having trouble creating the sapphire edges, and yields were only at 25% or less.
The sapphire screens for the iPhone that did not pass quality checks were converted into Watch screens. Apple likely could not afford to launch the sapphire covered iPhone 6 until the 100% of the production issues have been resolved. I have been told the issue was not on GT’s side of the house but solely resides within the finishers involved in the process (Biel and Lens Tech). It is expected that all of the sapphire watch production will be shifted back to Mesa to consume some of the sapphire being produced from the Mesa, AZ plant. The remaining output from the Mesa, AZ facility is excessive and will likely continue to be grown for iPhone 6 cover screens.
The latest information, however, indicates that GT Advanced had to overcome ramp issues inside its Mesa plant, so apparently the main problem was at the downstream finishers.
Margolis seems to be sure that GT Advanced is on track to meet the production requirements set by Apple, which apparently seems to confirm an earlier theory: There was no sapphire screen planned for the iPhone 6. It was simply overhyped by the blogosphere after news of the partnership between Apple and GT broke.