Word has it Apple is having a spot of difficulty producing the sapphire displays expected to grace the iPhone 6. PIE to the rescue!
Whilst there’s still some uncertainty about whether or not Apple will be instilling the next iPhone or its 2015 successor with a new display material, multiple sources have suggested that sapphire crystal will serve as the company’s armour of choice.
In the past, like many other smartphone makers out there, Apple has looked to Corning’s Gorilla Glass products as the preferred clear stuff to endow each new iPhone with, but reports of sapphire crystal keep cropping up when talking about the next iPhone.
Sapphire is touted as coming second only to diamond with regards to its material hardness and durability, not to mention tech blogger MKBHD gave us an impressive video demo of a sapphire panel he’d acquired, said to be destined for the next iPhone.
Despite the notable advantages of the material, Apple is supposedly having trouble making enough of the stuff to meet demand for its next major smartphone, but company GT Advanced Technologies looks like it has the answer – a specialised machine, purpose built to produce thin sheets of sapphire, ideal for use on displays.
The company’s Hyperion 4 Ion Implanter looks like it would feel right at home in Tony Stark’s personal lab, but using a process called Proton Induced Exfoliation (PIE) GT says it can create a more cost-effective method of forming single crystal sapphire to serve as a top protective layer on displays like the next iPhone’s.
Cost and energy have currently reared their heads as two of the trickiest parts of manufacturing such specialised sapphire displays, something Corning’s CFO was quick to point out in a conference call picked up by Seeking Alpha.
“When we look at it, we see a lot of disadvantages of sapphire versus Gorilla Glass,” Corning’s Corporate Controller, Tony Tripeny said. “It’s about 10 times more expensive. It’s about 1.6 times heavier. It’s environmentally unfriendly. It takes about 100 times more energy to generate a sapphire crystal than it does glass. It transmits less light which means either dimmer devices or shorter battery life.”
So the technology is available to Apple if it truly is granting its next smartphone a fancy new sapphire display, whether it will however, is another matter entirely.