Going against the flow of recent rumors somewhat, the most recent speculation surrounding Apple’s Sapphire glass manufacturing plant in Arizona states that Cupertino’s plans are to use the material to coat the surface of a wrist-worn device, not the iPhone 6. The biggest reason – according to reports on MyDrivers and PCPOP (via MacRumors) – is the cost of manufacturing the synthetic glass material. It would drive the build cost of the iPhone up, to a point where retail pricing would have to increase too.
The iWatch – whatever it is, and whatever it’ll eventually be called – won’t need anywhere near as much glass. Costs wouldn’t be as high. Especially if the iPhone 6 really is going to get a bigger screen than iPhone 5s and 5c.
According to Chinese media sources (which are citing “Taiwan supply chain insiders”), Apple has put a lot of effort into fitting the next iPhone with a sapphire screen. These sources claim that “beta” iPhone units (read: some of the prototypes Apple is currently testing) are already sporting sapphire protected panels, but unfortunately, chances are that they will not make it on the final product.
The problem is not necessarily due to low yield (which still is a problem, at least until Apple’s [Arizona] plant will be fully operational), but mainly because fitting a sapphire screen on the next iPhone would make its price skyrocket.
Fortunately though, the same sources also say that Apple will manage to fit sapphire screens on the rumored iWatch. The smartwatch is said to feature a 2 inch panel, and evidently, the production costs would be much lower.
Like I’ve already mentioned. This goes against some rumors already in circulation. For instance, we know how many furnaces have been purchased for use at the Arizona plant. We also know that there are enough furnaces to produce between 100-200 million 5-inch screens each year. With the iWatch likely to feature something around the 2-inch mark (if it has the traditional watch form factor), that would be an insane number of watch faces they could cover. That would be over 250 million iWatches. With a first generation product, it’d be completely unprecedented to sell or produce anywhere near that many in the first year.
For now, I’d treat this speculation as it deserves: With a healthy dose of skepticism. Although there are clear benefits to iWatch having a tough, glass display, I don’t think a plant of this size and with this potential yield capacity would be used exclusively for an accessory.