Anyone who ever dropped his or her iPhone and watched its screen shatter against the unforgiving pavement might be relieved by the new rumor leaking out of Apple Land, which is that the company intends for future iPhones to feature a tougher sapphire screen.
According to the blog 9to5Mac (which is usually on top of this sort of thing), Apple is rushing to make an Arizona manufacturing facility operational this month; based on import/export records, that build-out includes equipment for inspecting sapphire-crystal displays. A recent SEC filing by GT Advanced, which is working on the facility alongside Apple, suggests that the hardware is indeed for making “consumer electronics products.”
Digging further, 9to5Mac suggested that GT Advanced had received enough equipment to manufacture as many as 200 million 5-inch sapphire displays per year.
Stronger and more scratch-resistant screens could help Apple produce tougher iPhones. Sapphire might also find its way into the long-rumored Apple “iWatch,” which scuttlebutt suggests is more of an everything-glass bracelet than a traditional timepiece. Apple might also attempt a larger iPhone to compete in the so-called “phablet” category, which has proven a big winner for rivals such as Samsung. “Numerous reports have now said that Apple will finally launch a bigger iPhone this year in an effort to take on smartphones with larger displays from the competition,” Boy Genius Report suggested in January.
After years of iterative upgrades to existing product lines, Apple is under considerable pressure by Wall Street to break into new categories such as wearable electronics. (In a recent interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook promised that such forays are in the works for 2014, although he was characteristically stingy with further details.) Even as it casts its eye toward those fresh arenas, however, Apple must continue to improve the core products that made it such a colossus—hence, the fevered work on the next iPhone, including its ultra-tough screen.