Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) rumored iWatch and both of its upcoming iPhone 6 models will likely feature sapphire glass covers, according to prominent PTT Research analyst Matt Margolis, reports Seeking Alpha. Apple’s expanded interest in sapphire has been known since last November, when GT Advanced Technologies (NASDAQ:GTAT) revealed in its quarterly earnings report that the iPhone maker had made a $578 million investment in a sapphire manufacturing facility that it runs in Arizona. While Apple currently uses Corning’s (NYSE:GLW) proprietary Gorilla Glass for its mobile device displays, sapphire is a thinner and more scratch-resistant material. However, at the time, it was unclear if Apple simply wanted to continue using sapphire as a protective covering for the Touch ID fingerprint scanner and the iPhone’s camera lens, or if the sapphire produced at the Arizona-based plant was intended for something else.
Earlier this year, 9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman and analyst Matt Margolis uncovered import/export documents that strongly suggested Apple would be producing displays for the iPhone at the sapphire plant. GT Advanced Technologies also filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission that confirmed that all of the sapphire manufacturing at the Arizona plant would be done exclusively for Apple.
Based on the number of sapphire furnaces and chamber systems that the plant had already procured, as well as other furnaces that it had on order, Margolis estimated that the plant would eventually be capable of producing as many as 210 million iPhone displays per year. This would be more than enough to supply Apple’s iPhone needs. As noted by CEO Tim Cook in the company’s earnings call for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2013, Apple sold 150 million iPhone units in fiscal 2013.