Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sapphire display covers featured in Apple smart watches but not in iPhone 6

LYON, FRANCE: The long wait is finally over. From a sapphire industry standpoint, Apple killed the suspense within the first 10 minutes by announcing that its new 4.7” and 5.5” iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus will both feature a traditional ion-exchange strengthened glass display cover.

Sapphire remains in the camera lens cover and the touch ID sensor, features that were already present on the iPhone5s.

At Yole Développement, we believe that technical and manufacturing issues at various levels of the supply chain have prevented Apple from using sapphire as the display cover in this year iteration of its iPhone. An important feature of the design of the new iPhone is that the case doesn’t wrap around the display cover. To protect the edges and, more specifically the corners, the part features a complex shape with smooth curves. This design resulted in fairly low finishing yields with sapphire which drove the cost to above $40 per part.

Apple focused the show on the long anticipated smart watch, announced in three customizable versions named “Apple Watch”, “Apple Watch Sport” and “Apple Watch Edition”. Both the “Watch” and “Edition” versions feature a sapphire display cover on the front.

On the back, a zirconia ceramic cover with four sapphire lenses protects a heart rate sensor. The “Sport” model however relies on strengthened ion-exchange glass for the display cover and the lenses. The watches come in 2 case sizes of 38 and 42 mm. The sapphire display cover is a 2.5D design with a surface curved toward the edges that blends in smoothly with the watch case.

“We estimate that for the largest model, those covers are manufactured from long sapphire bars of 40 x 34 mm cross section sliced at a pitch of about 1.8 mm,” details Dr. Eric Virey, senior analyst at Yole Développement.”The 4 lenses on the back appear to have dimensions fairly similar to the one featured on the iPhone camera lens cover,” he adds.

The watches however won’t be available until “early 2015”.

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