Earlier this year, Apple has been mentioned in a lot of reports that the smartphone giant will be introducing the hard and scratch-resistant sapphire glass on the next flagship smartphones, the iPhone 6.
Reports also noted that Apple was in talks with GT Technologies, a large-scale sapphire glass manufacturer, to build a factory specifically to manufacture the crystal for Apple.
However, when Apple unveiled the iPhone 6, the world was shocked that Apple did not put the glass on its flagships.
Apple has been using the crystal for protecting the camera and Home buttons since 2013, and will be using it on the Watch.
The main reason behind why Apple could not place the crystal on the iPhone 6 is because of a few too many reasons.
Apple had invested more a billion dollars to make the sapphire crystal for the devices.
According to a report on MIT Technology Review, a month later after Apple unveiled the iPhone 6, GT Technologies filed for bankruptcy. Documents from the bankruptcy proceedings reveal clues as to why and what went wrong.
Sapphire was the perfect material to build the smartphone screen. However, the process of growing the sapphire crystal boule (bead) takes almost a month. When the process starts inside the furnace, you cannot know if the process is working properly and only after the month is over, you can find out if the sapphire crystal is made properly or not. If there is an issue, it will take another month to grow the crystal and only find out if that too has an issue after 30 days. There is no way to monitor the process before it is complete.
Secondly, the manufacturing process requires a very clean environment. GT was having construction on the site which was not meant for growing the crystal. There is also a requirement of uninterrupted source of water supply and electricity to regulate the temperature of the manufacturing. Apple also did not install backup power supply units, which ruined many batches of the crystal due to multiple power outages.
Lastly, Apple had selected the equipment for polishing and slicing the crystal. Apple said that the process would take less than three hours, but the actual process takes almost 20 hours.
The overall manufacturing process and requirements shot the price of manufacturing the crystal by 30 per cent.
On the final note, GT Technologies was accused by Apple, with documents stating that the company failed to produce “any meaningful quantity of useable sapphire.”
These are the main reasons why Apple could not put the sapphire glass on the iPhone 6.
The report further stated that GT is working on a possibility to eliminate the need for large sapphire crystals. This is done by slicing smaller crystals into ultra-thin laminates. These laminates could then be added to conventional glass, making the screen impossible to scratch and would reduce the cost of the screen by a big chunk. These glasses could be seen in Apple’s next smartphones.