Ever since Apple introduced the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, the absence of sapphire glass seems to be a recurring question, as many of us are still wondering why Apple skipped out on using it despite the fact that, according to plans from “weeks ago,” everything was on track for a sapphire glass iPhone (well, according to PTT Research analyst and GTA investor Matt Margolis).
Actually, the iPhone 6 and its bigger brother weren’t meant to sport a sapphire glass display in the first place, Tim Bajarin, president of technology industry analysis firm Creative Strategies Inc., wrote in Time today.
His research echoes an earlier report signed by Jeff Desjardins, Visual Capitalist founder and editor: The material isn’t quite ready for mass production yet. We spoke with Jeff on the phone, who emphasized reports of roughly 80 million iPhone 6 and 6 Plus units manufactured in 2014 alone. This could not be done, because the supply chain isn’t ready to mass produce it yet.
Tim corroborates Jeff’s claims when he says that manufacturing so many iPhone 6 screens requires meticulous planning, and orders need to be placed at least six months ahead of the official release. We saw GTA start production in the Mesa facility in February, but not in full production capacity.
However, Tim points to other features that will postpone the sapphire glass iPhone launch, such as its design, cost, and durability. The latter, which was supposed to be one of its key selling features, is actually — in some usage case scenarios — a downside of using sapphire for the cover screen. The reason is simple: While the glass flexes and can absorb the shock of a drop, sapphire is more likely to break.
Current solutions, such as Gorilla Glass, apparently are reinforced with a chemical that alters its atomic structure and actually strengthens the area around scratches to insulates the glass longer against breaking. While surface scratches may be more visible earlier on, a glass screen will stay more intact over time than a sapphire one. Once sapphire is exposed to a scratch or a flaw, visible or invisible, its risk of breakage and eventual failure is high. On watches, this is less of an issue because they are seldom dropped and the watch surface is smaller. But in a smartphone with a larger screen and many usage variables, it’s difficult to guarantee that it’s less prone to breakage.
For more insight, read Tim’s article on Time by following this link.