New rumors regarding limited usage of sapphire cover glass usage in iPhone 6 have emerged in Taiwan.
According to a Chinese-language Liberty Times report only one out of 10 of Apple's new iPhone 6 will be using the sapphire cover glass.
The report did not clearly indicate sources it turned to for the information. What can be gathered from the report is global sapphire substrate production capacity fall short of Apple iPhone 6 volume demands. Sapphire ingot manufacturers noted current global 2-inch sapphire substrate production capacity is only 10 million pieces (PCS). If other smartphone brands also follow in Apple’s footsteps and introduce sapphire cover glass into their products it could create sapphire substrate shortage.
The report reasoned, due to the lack of sapphire ingot production capacity (an observation LEDinside analysts have already pointed out last week), 10 percent iPhone 6 will be utilizing the material.
Although, Apple turned to GT Advanced Technology for exclusive sapphire ingot supply, it has still created a large supply and demand gap in the sapphire substrate industry, the report went on. Based on past experiences, Apple would be shipping at least 10 million smartphones a month after iPhone 6 hits store shelves. If all these phones come with the hard resilient material, sapphire substrate demands would exceed 40 million PCS per month. GTAT’s current monthly production capacity is about a tenth of that at 4 million PCS. The sapphire manufacturer has reached a production capacity bottleneck, and the estimations are considered generous since yield rates are not taken into consideration. Therefore, industry insiders believe only the high-end version Apple iPhone 6 will be equipped with sapphire glass covers.
In the none-Apple camp, Monocrystal, Rubicon, STC and other manufacturers have a monthly sapphire substrate production capacity of 10 million PCS to supply various applications. The current volume is sufficient to meet LED industry monthly demand of 3 million PCS and smartphone optic applications demands for lens and home buttons placed at 1 million PCS demands.
Samsung and Chinese smartphone manufacturers tend to go after Apple’s specs. The sapphire ingot production capacity gap will further once these companies also start launching sapphire cover glass smartphones. Global smartphone demands, excluding Apple smartphones, has a shipment volume of 50 million. If 20 percent of these smartphones use sapphire substrate, sapphire demand will far exceed 40 million PCS, equivalent to four times the global sapphire ingot production capacity.
Many Chinese sapphire ingot manufacturers have started to expand production capacity, but there is no guarantee about the potential quality. This is also the main reason that Apple turned to GTAT for sapphire supplies, instead of searching for existing suppliers. The report pointed out, Apple’s exclusive partnership with GTAT prevents iPhone shipments from being affected by major price upticks and material shortages in the sapphire industry.