Will the iPhone 6 Be the First Sapphire Smartphone?

Source: Apple.comAlthough Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) latest iPhone models have only been on the market for a little over two months, industry watchers are already speculating about the specifications of the so-called “iPhone 6.” While many of the iPhone 6 rumors are centered on an increased screen size, others rumors are focused on the material that Apple’s next iPhone screens might be made from.

According to unnamed sources cited by the International Business Times, Apple’s upcoming iPhone 6 may feature a screen made out of an extremely hard and scratch-resistant material known as sapphire. As previously reported by Seeking Alpha, Apple recently entered into a partnership with sapphire maker GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT). As part of the deal, Apple provided GT Advanced Technologies with a $578 million prepayment.

Although Apple currently only uses sapphire as a protective cover for the Touch ID fingerprint scanner and the iPhone’s camera lens, the company’s investment in GT Advanced Technologies’ mass production facilities has sparked speculation that the company may soon greatly expand its use of this material. According to GT Advanced Technologies, Apple’s investment “accelerated the development of its next generation, large capacity ASF [Advanced Sapphire Furnaces] furnaces to deliver low cost, high volume manufacturing of sapphire material.”

The “low cost” aspect of GT’s sapphire production could be a key part of Apple’s recent deal. Although sapphire is stronger and more scratch-resistant than the Corning (NYSE:GLW) Gorilla Glass currently used by Apple for its devices, sapphire is also usually more expensive to make. However, if Apple has developed a proprietary method that drastically reduces the cost of sapphire production, it would make it more likely that this material would be utilized in the next iteration of iPhone.

According to GT Advanced Technologies marketing director Jeff Nestel-Patt via the International Business Times, sapphire would make Apple’s iPhone 6 “virtually scratch free” and extremely durable. As noted by the International Business Times, sapphire can be rubbed on concrete without sustaining any scratches.

Besides the rumors that the iPhone 6 will feature a sapphire touchscreen, other rumors have emerged that suggest the next-generation iPhone will have a 4.9-inch screen size. Still, other rumors have suggested that Apple’s iPhone 6 will feature a curved display that goes over the edge of the device. Although it is impossible to independently confirm the various rumors about Apple’s upcoming iPhone 6, the California-based company’s next round of revolutionary smartphone innovations could very well include the implementation of sapphire touchscreens.

Here’s how Apple closed out Friday’s shortened trading session.

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