If you were following iPhone 6 rumors going all the way back through the beginning of the year, you were probably a little surprised to see the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus debut without a sapphire display on either of them. Reports about Apple’s sapphire investment may have gone back-and-forth over whether both screen sizes would see the sapphire treatment, but surely at least one of them would end up with such an extremely scratch-resistant screen, right? Well, apparently not, and post-launch rumors attempted to frame the component’s absence as a late-stage manufacturing issue. But is that really what’s going on? A new examination in Time suggests that Apple was never really planning to deploy sapphire for its phone lineup at all, and we’ve been getting a little carried away with the rumors.
It’s an interesting theory, but parts of it are more convincing than others. Analyst Tim Bajarin makes the case for why this sapphire idea doesn’t make sense for Apple, citing everything from cost issues, to concerns over fragility, to suggesting sapphire is such an energy-intensive material to make that it’s use is a non-starter from an environmental-friendly manufacturing perspective.
And those are all complaints about sapphire we’ve heard before – yet companies very much do release phones with sapphire displays. We just saw that Kyocera Brigadier launch on Verizon where it goes full-price for under $400, yet Bajarin claims that Apple wouldn’t have been able to realistically use sapphire for the iPhone 6, suggesting it would add at least $100 to the phone’s base price.
While he may have some valid points, we’re not entirely on board with all of the speculation here (and a lot of it does feel like just that). That said, Bajarin does make one much firmer claim, saying that he heard specifically from his sources that “sapphire was never targeted for the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus and its role in future iPhones hasn’t even been decided yet.”
In the end, we may just have to wait and see what becomes of sapphire in future Apple products; if it really is absent from the iPhone 7, we’ll have to believe all these rumors may have been overblown. For now, though, Apple’s full interest in the material remains less than clear.