Apple Watch’s tiny sapphire screen costs $27 to produce.

Picture: Apple

Aside from the fact that it features a “flexible Retina display” and is capable of “reading” both soft and hard presses, Apple hasn’t let much out of the bag about the sapphire display for its eagerly-anticipated Apple Watch.

A new report from research firm NPD DisplaySearch has a bit more to say, however — including the price Apple is apparently paying for the sapphire laminate panels it’s using for its wearables debut.

Including the panel, sapphire, labor costs another charges, NPD DisplaySearch claims Apple’s new screens will set it back $27.41 per device for the larger Apple Watch. Of this, the display module is estimated to cost $7.86, while the touch panel covered with sapphire costs Cupertino $19.55 per unit.

NPD DisplaySearch also claims the Apple Watch’s sapphire touchscreen will boast a 1.5-inch display for the devices’s 42mm version, while the smaller 38mm Apple Watch will come with a 1.3-inch screen. Both displays supposedly feature the same 240×320 resolution.

In terms of pixel density this adds up to 299ppi on the smaller Apple Watch, and 261ppi for the bigger one.

The displays are reportedly flexible AMOLED (using a plastic substrate), with the panel being supplied by LG Electronics. The sapphire that sits on top of this is provided by GT Advanced, which was also already well known.

The Apple Watch is expected to go for sale in early 2015, with prices starting at $349. According to a new report also from NPD DisplaySearch, Apple’s much-heralded arrival in the wearables industry could see the wearables market hit 91 million units in 2015.

A recent report suggested that Apple was aiming to sell the (close to impossible) number of 50 million+ Apple Watches in 2015, which would not only make it the undisputed market leader, but also make the Apple Watch the top-selling iOS device in history on a first year sales basis.

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Apple invests $578 million in sapphire glass technology for the iPhone 6.

According to reports, Apple’s iPhone 6 could well feature sapphire glass display technology.

The International Business Times is reporting that Apple has paid $578 million to GT Advanced Technologies to further “the development of its next generation, large capacity ASF furnaces to deliver low cost, high volume manufacturing of sapphire material.” Apple would certainly not invest in a technology this heavily unless it had clear designs to incorporate it into a future product. Apparently, Apple’s investment is meant to keep costs of the sapphire technology lower, so that the price isn’t reflected in a more expensive iPhone later on. Sapphire glass can really take a beating, and is purportedly more than 2.5 times more durable than Corning Gorilla Glass. One can break pieces of concrete on sapphire glass and leave no visible mark behind.

iPhone-6-Or-01

The inclusion of sapphire glass on the next iPhone would certainly be a game-changer, with the iPhone becoming near-indestructible overnight. As usual, we’ve already been exposed to a fair share of rumors about the iPhone 6, but anyone can speculate about what features the iPhone 6 will have with absolutely no evidence. This is the first concrete development we have had which may give us some insight into the iPhone 6. At the very least, it’s a safe bet to assume that sapphire glass will become the standard weapon of choice in smartphone displays of the future.

Apple is planning to use a whole lot of sapphire, but for what?

Earlier this week, Apple announced its plans to open a new facility with GT Advanced to help manufacture sapphire. Apple, of course, currently uses sapphire for the camera lens on the iPhone and on the Touch ID sensor because the material is incredibly durable and scratch-resistant.

Apple’s agreement with GT Advanced, however, suggests that it has much bigger plans for sapphire than its current product lineup would otherwise suggest.

During a Monday earnings call, GT revealed a few bits of data that suggest it is rejiggering its entire business model around sapphire production. As Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White noted today, GT’s sapphire business accounted for 11 percent of its year-to-date sales – about $28.9 million in revenue. But, in forecasting 2014 revenue, the company said it expects to make $600 million to $800 million, with 80 percent of those sales attributable to its sapphire business.

Let’s take a closer look at those numbers.

GT’s sapphire business brought in US$28.9 million in revenue in 2013. Looking ahead to 2014, GT Advanced notes that its sapphire business will bring in anywhere from $480 million to $640 million.

That’s an absolutely monumental increase in sapphire production and begs the question as to just what Apple plans to do with all that sapphire.

Not to get too swept away by the rumor winds a’blowin, but some folks have suggested Apple may feature sapphire more prominently on the iPhone 6, perhaps using it for the full display. This of course would certainly reduce the incidence of cracked and broken screens. At the same time, sapphire is more expensive and heavier than glass so there is a trade-off.

As a final point, it’s worth pointing out this blurb from GT Advanced’s press release:

GT has accelerated the development of its next-generation, large-capacity ASF furnaces to deliver low-cost, high-volume manufacturing of sapphire material. These R&D efforts will support its non-LED initiative with its new customer and are expected to enable the expansion of GT’s LED, industrial and specialty sapphire businesses by positioning GT and its equipment customers as the industry’s lowest-cost sapphire producers.

Accelerated development. Low cost. High volume.

Let the speculation begin.

Source:  TUAW.