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Video: Apple set to harness the power of sapphire


Are sapphire crystal screens on their way? New reports indicate Apple plans to use sapphire screens, similar in strength to those in the video above, in future devices. Credit: YouTube

What’s Tim Cook cooking up in California?

As CEO of Apple, Cook and company are well-known for their secrecy regarding its vast line of “iThings,” but a recent deal between the folks in Cupertino and New Hampshire-based GT Advanced Technologies leads many to believe that future Apple devices will, in fact, feature a tougher, more scratch-resistant sapphire crystal screen.

As Eileen reported back in November 2013, GT Advanced Technologies confirmed plans that Apple was building a manufacturing facility in Mesa that would produce sapphire materials—long considered a cost-prohibitive screen option for smartphones and tablets. And according to a recent report in 9to5Mac, that plant is manufacturing a “critical” and “new” sub-component (i.e. sapphire) for the tech-giant’s popular devices at the facility—which seems to be verified by import/export records that show GT Advanced has been shopping for inspection tool components that “ensure that the sapphire crystal displays meet high-quality standards.” Their method, as reported by MIT Technology Review early last year, sought to make “sapphire sheets thinner than a human hair—much thinner than the nearly millimeter-thick glass used now on mobile phones.” 

The publishing last month of an Apple patent filing titled “Attachment Techniques” points to their efforts to protect their own processes, which slice sapphire wafers using “lasers” (be sure to use your own best Dr. Evil voice), and seek to develop a cost-effective sapphire alternative to the Gorilla Glass they currently use.

Bloomberg has reported that at its full capacity, the new plant will make an “unprecedented” amount of synthetic sapphire—up to two times more than is currently produced globally and enough for close to 100 million iPhones annually.

Whether or not we’ll ever see Apple devices with sapphire screens (some rumors predict a September launch of the iPhone 6 featuring a 4.7- and 5.5-inch sapphire screen, though most industry insiders anticipate it’s more likely to pop up in the iWatch), it’s certainly fun to speculate on what the new developments might mean for our digital devices.

In fact, aerospace grade product manufacturer Aero-Gear has done just that, demonstrating how a sapphire screen would stand up against concrete, long known for its iPhone-busting capabilities. Check it out in the video above.