One of the rumored features of the Apple iPhone 6 became more solidified today when it was confirmed that preparation at the production facility behind it is well underway. For some time it has been thought that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) would be using sapphire glass in the new iPhone 6, and it has been reported by The Register today that the factory system in Arizona which was mooted as being the likely producer has ramped up its production capabilities.

iPhone 6

Apple prepares for sapphire glass iPhone 6

According to The Register, the factory in Arizona which will be tasked with producing this unique element of the iPhone 6 now possesses enough machinery and production capability to make 100 million iPhone screens. Clearly this is going to be satisfactory to meet demand for the iPhone 6, given that the previous model sold just over 50 million units in the first quarter that it was released, and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has sold just over 420 million iPhones since the product was launched in 2007.

It also suggests that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is planning for a big increase in sales for the iPhone 6. While Apple will undoubtedly want to keep their flagship device as a premium product, the combination of the threat of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (LON:BC94) (KRX:005930) and lukewarm financial results for the previous quarter might motivate the corporation to release a relatively cut price iPhone 6. Apple has recently signed a deal with China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE:CHL) (HKG:0941), and given the huge potential market that this will open up for the iPhone 6, it seems likely that Apple will want it to be as affordable as possible.

According to the website 9to5Mac, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has recently procured enough sapphire crystal furnaces to manufacture somewhere between 100 and 200 million iPhones. The furnaces are already resident in their production facilities in Mesa, Arizona. Import and export records also indicate that GT Advanced – a partner in the Mesa facility – has ordered two shipments of Intego Sirius Sapphire Display Inspection Tools. These devices are utilized in the production of high quality sapphire glass.

Documentation acquired by 9to5Mac indicates that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is intending to use sapphire in a variety of new market sectors, and particularly with regard to the covering of screens for smartphones and mobile devices. It would also seem that the work GT Advanced are carrying out will be solely for Apple. Already concept images have emerged which suggest that the iPhone 6 will feature a sleek, curved design.

iPhone 6 not the first to include

It thus seems an absolute certainty that Apple will include this material in the iPhone 6. However, although this will doubtless contribute to the attractiveness of the smartphone, it would not be the first handset to include sapphire glass. The exclusive, little known and handmade Vertu Ti has a 3.7in crystal-covered screen, but previously sapphire crystal was considered too expensive for mass produced smartphone screens. By including this material in the production process, Apple is really upping the smartphone battle ante.

Vertu

Aside from the attractiveness of the material, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is also looking to include sapphire glass in the iPhone 6 for reasons related to durability. Sapphire glass is much harder than regular glass, and is therefore considerably more scratch resistant. This not only has a bearing on the screen, but is also a huge plus point for the camera lens in the iPhone 6 as well. One of the perennial bugbears of pretty much all mainstream smartphones since the medium was invented has been their tendency to scratch easily and failure to maintain their initial gleaming appearance.

Expense a consideration

Previously sapphire glass was reckoned to cost around ten times the amount of regular glass, so one would assume that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has a system in place which will enable it to produce this sought after material at a considerably smaller price than has previously been the case. Whether sapphire glass will feature in all models of the iPhone 6 is open to speculation, and of course Apple is playing its cards exceptionally close to its chest, but it seems probable that there will be two models of the iPhone released and it is possible that one of these will be a budget device featuring more usual glass.

This would naturally follow Apple’s strategy with its previous smartphone release, with the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C being aimed at slightly differing markets. It will be interesting to see what the huge manufacturer’s strategy is as the instigation of sapphire glass suggests that production costs will be significantly higher, yet Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is under pressure to compete directly with Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (LON:BC94) (KRX:005930) and keep the retail price of the iPhone 6 as low as possible.

Regardless of this, it is exciting to think that there is going to be a mainstream smartphone available with sapphire glass. This has been the preserve of the ultra-exclusive mobile thus far, but it seems that it will be within more our price ranges in the near future.