Today, the USPTO published an Apple patent from last year showing that the company is – at the very least – working on a way to make Sapphire glass touch screen displays. Of course, on its own, it would be very unlikely to convince anyone that Cupertino was actually going to release a Sapphire-coated product. But when added to the mountain of evidence we already have, it says a lot.
This patent shows that Apple is working on a way to incorporate an oleophobic layer to the Sapphire glass. That means one thing: It’s being designed to be touched. Not just looked at. It also mentions a hydrophobic coating for adding waterproofing qualities to the glass. These two qualities are already standard with iPhone and iPad glass touch screens, but because the glass is likely to be changed to Sapphire at some point in the near future, a different process was needed to bond it to the material.
Analyst Matt Margolis points out some key changes in manufacturing:
What is interesting is that this patent allows for the oleophobic coating to be applied to a brick of sapphire and not having to apply it to each cut screen individually i.e. the patent allows for batch processing. The process used to coat sapphire screens is different from traditional glass screens. The patent mentions PVD and sintering as options. Apple and GT may be leveraging GT’s SPS technology for sintering to get this job done in the most efficient way possible Spark Plasma Sintering (SPS)
The question is – and has been for a while – what is Apple going to do with this glass? It’s not quite as tough as Gorilla Glass 3, but, it is far more scratch resistant. It would make sense on an iPhone, and we know Apple’s Sapphire manufacturing plant in Arizona is capable of churning out millions of iPhone screens each year. But, one product that Sapphire glass would arguable make more sense on – perhaps – is a watch.
If I was a betting man, I’d put money on the next iPhone having a Sapphire glass touch screen. I’m still not convinced we’re going to get an iWatch. This year, or ever.