back to article Apple iPhone 6: Missing sapphire glass screen FAIL explained

Apple fanbois were left scratching their heads when Tim Cook unveiled the new iPhone 6 without the sapphire glass facelift many were expecting it to receive . Now mobile analyst Matt Margolis has claimed that supply chain issues prevented Cupertino from rolling out phones equipped with the new wonder material. He is one of …

  1. GreggS

    Oh well

    I'll wait until the 6s next year

    1. Timmay

      Re: Oh well

      6s = 6sapphire

      1. hammarbtyp

        Re: Oh well

        or silica

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Oh well

          Or something else beginning with "s"

    2. Anonymoist Cowyard
      Stop

      Re: Oh well

      Or buy a handset that DOES have it NOW....

      http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/10/us-apple-sapphire-screens-idUSKBN0H50F120140910

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh well

      Or just buy a Nexus 5...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ORIS with sapphire crystal since 1998

      Watch purchased in 1998, ORIS BC3 sapphire crystal glass front and back in a stainless steel case.

      After 15 years the front and back glass is unmarked whereas the steel case shows scratches and marks.

      However, the glass is actually quite thick to compensate for the fact that it would be too brittle if made too thin. That unfortunately is a trade off with sapphire crystal. It is also heavy.

      I think Apple are looking to use a laminate on anything bigger than a watch, or a new form of glass that has shock resistance built into it.

      Really 'thin' sapphire crystal is brittle.

  2. 101
    FAIL

    Vaporpus Sapphire

    Maybe it's simply not possible to reliably make millions of perfect sapphire phone screens and the whole concept is vaporware.

    In any case, Apple should have been more forthcoming with fans and investors about this.

    I think it's a sign.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Vaporpus Sapphire

      They never told their fans and investors they were planning to do it in the first place. People assumed it based on rumours, now are blaming Apple that those rumours weren't true.

      Nothing to see here.

    2. SuccessCase

      Re: Vaporpus Sapphire

      More forthcoming about what ? A screen material they never told anyone or promised anyone they were going to release, not being released ? How inconsiderate of them.

      1. SuccessCase

        Re: Vaporpus Sapphire

        @JDX got there first.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Vaporpus Sapphire

      "I think it's a sign."

      Yeah, it's a sign, all right - "Going out of business".

    4. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Vaporpus Sapphire

      >Maybe it's simply not possible to reliably make millions of perfect sapphire phone screens

      Over the years there has been much debate around the various mineral crystals available for watch displays. I suspect that part of the problem is not that you can't reliably make millions of perfect sapphire phone screens, but whether it can be done at the required cost and whether such a brittle screen really is appropriate given the application (yes sapphire may be very hard and resistant to scratching, however just like diamond is brittle and subject to cleaving or shattering on impact).

      Personally, having the choice between a sapphire screen or a slightly softer and flexible mineral crystal screen, I would go with the non-sapphire screen.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Vaporpus Sapphire

      "Maybe it's simply not possible to reliably make millions of perfect sapphire phone screens and the whole concept is vaporware."

      Maybe, but if there's any truth in the rumours, the "missing" sapphire screens are purely (as the article suggests) an outcome of the yield issue. On any new process you have a lot of defects, and a lot of early production ends in the bin, and you can only go to full production when you know you can produce enough intact parts to make the process profitable for both manufacturer and phone assembler.

      Something that nobody has mentioned is whether sapphire screens are going into the distribution channel unannounced, and being sold alongside normal glass. Would make sense, to gauge performance and warranty costs. Maybe fanbois should test their devices? Usual testing mode is to take a faceted diamond (your wife's ring) and see if that marks the face.

      1. Notas Badoff
        Joke

        Re: Vaporpus Sapphire

        Kids, do not try this at home!

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Vaporpus Sapphire @Ledswinger

        Yes yield definitely is part it. Also I note from other reports there is a general issue of there being sufficient sapphire being produced, which Apple were addressing by building it's own glass plants, which I suspect aren't ready for prime time just yet.

        As for your test, a simpler one would be to take the phone outside - sapphire is more reflective...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Vaporpus Sapphire @Ledswinger

          "As for your test, a simpler one would be to take the phone outside - sapphire is more reflective..."

          Alright, ignoring wicked jokes at the (very unlikely) potential expense of the clueless. But surely a sapphire screen is going to have an anti-reflection coating. Not much use if you can't use the thing in daylight? And glass screens are bad enough in tis respect already.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Vaporpus Sapphire @Ledswinger

            >Not much use if you can't use the thing in daylight?

            Ignoring specialist phones (£££), I've yet to come across a mass market smartphone that is as usable in daylight as a device with an e-ink display such as the Kindle...

            But point taken, I wonder whether Apple compared sapphire with gorilla glass in daylight and decided that perhaps it was better to wait until suitable coatings were available...

    6. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Vaporpus Sapphire

      I'm no Apple fan, but...

      Apple fail because they didn't deliver something they never said they would deliver?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not new!

    phones equipped with the new wonder material

    I've owned a watch for years that has sapphire glass. This is not a new wonder material - it has been available in some consumer products for years. But let's not let facts get in the way of bigging up Apple innovation.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's not new!

      Android Phones have had sapphire screens for years too...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's not new!

        Selling a small quantity of a niche product like the Android phones with sapphire screens and selling 150 million a year are two VERY different things.

        Apple is clearly not there yet, but they will be there before anyone else. If for no other reason than they spend $1 billion building a sapphire plant that will produce 10x more sapphire than all the other plants in the world combined. If anyone wants to follow them with a mass market phone that sells millions of copies, they'll need to make a similar investment, or hope one of the sapphire producers does. Either way, they won't be able to make the screens as cost effectively as Apple will, since they'll be making so many more and own the factory they're being made in.

      2. JeffyPoooh
        Pint

        Re: It's not new!

        Many of my colleagues have Android phones, and many of them have cracked screens.

        I'm not sure if perhaps it's because they're holding them wrong (and thus dropping them), or because they bang them against the office window trying to get a signal (actually the signal is there, but their phone has given up and won't even be checking for a signal for another five minutes).

      3. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Re: It's not new!

        Manufacturing a flawless smartphone screen from sapphire is an order of magnitude more difficult than making a watch face, and the assertion that Android phones have had sapphire screens for years is disingenuous. The vast majority of Android phones have tempered glass (Landfill variants) or Gorilla glass (mid -> premium); just like iPhones.

        If you want an iPhone with sapphire screen it does exist; I saw one at Schiphol airport for €4,999. Gold plated, diamond encrusted, and with a sapphire screen, right next to a blinged-up iPad at 6 grand. The price is a good indication that mass production isn't yet a viable proposition.

    2. Scroticus Canis
      Holmes

      Re: It's not new!

      Damned right! 1981 was the year I brought my first watch with a sapphire lens and I think it was used previously to that.

      Given Jasper's track record I only read his articles to see what his latest snafu is.

  4. Breen Whitman

    Bait and switch.

    Nice work apple!

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Except there was no bait.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        or switch

    2. Annihilator Silver badge
      Facepalm

      It's a bait and switch from the analyst.

      "I predict x!" claims analyst before launch of product.

      <product launches and x turns out not to be true...>

      "company failed to do x!" claims analyst and thus save themself from admitting they were wrong...

  5. Alan Denman

    you just canna make it up

    Likely the press just made it up, they near enough invent every myth about the iPhone.

    1. photobod

      Re: you just canna make it up

      Well, it wouldn't exactly be the first time a company 'leaked' information about vapourware in order to maximise press coverage of a product launch, would it?

  6. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Using Saphire and Verbal shite

    Apple did release a product that uses this not so mythical material, the Apple Watch.

    There were lotos of indicateions earlier in the year that Apple was not gonig to be able to produce enough for this phone release despite these Analysists (a.k.a Crystal ball gazers) were saying.

    It really isn't a surprise that this generatino of device does not have a Sapphire screen but hey, the idiots need to keep spouting forth a stream of verbal shite in order to earn a living don't they?

    Perhaps Apple should encase a few of them in this wonderful material? After all this garbage can have a profiund effect on the share price.

    1. Big_Ted

      Re: Apple did release a product that uses this not so mythical material, the Apple Watch.

      To be padantic they didn't release anything at all just made announcements. They then stated the release dates for the phones, the watch ? well thats some time "early" next year. so any time in the first 4 months, not a release then.....

      1. SkippyBing

        Re: Apple did release a product that uses this not so mythical material, the Apple Watch.

        To be more pedantic, it's spelt pedantic...

  7. kmac499
    Happy

    A decent plastic screen protector on my 4yo HTC with a gorilla glass works just fine, and if it does get scuffed I simply peel it off clean it up and pop on a new one.

    1. Big_Ted
      Paris Hilton

      Re plastic screen protector

      Sorry but the new screen protector is probably worth more than the phone now.

  8. Norphy

    I may be wrong but as I understand it, while sapphire is considerably more scratch resistant than the glass they're using on the phones at the moment, it is also a lot more brittle and susceptible to cracking. There is a trade off and I suspect (and this is pure speculation on my part) that Apple have chosen durability over scratch resistance.

    1. william 10

      Also it is heavier and not as opaque gorilla glass (requiring a more powerful back-light).

  9. PleebSmash
    Trollface

    made for youtube

    Someone will take a knife to their "sapphire glass" iPhone 6.

  10. Mage Silver badge

    Sapphire

    I doubt it will be on larger mobile devices ever. Break too easily.

    Smaller gadgets. like a watch. Or a pebble sized tight jeans pocket flip phone. with two screens like a powder compact.

    1. Pookietoo

      Re: Sapphire

      Maybe someone will develop a way to attach a thin sapphire glass face onto a tougher base, resulting in excellent scratch resistance and good toughness too.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Sapphire

        >Maybe someone will develop a way to attach a thin sapphire glass face onto a tougher base, resulting in excellent scratch resistance and good toughness too.

        Seiko did that years back when producing sapphire was less reliable and more expensive than it is now (google sapphlex). With advances in production technology they now only use their proprietary hardlex (mineral crystal) or sapphire crystals depending upon price point and market being targeted.

        However, it is worth remembering that the sapphire screen on your 1000m divers watch will be a totally different level of quality to the sapphire screen on your idevice; this will be reflected in the price and guarantee...

  11. returnmyjedi

    "The plan as of a “week ago” was to include a sapphire covered iPhone 6 in yesterday’s launch," Margolis wrote."

    So in the space of three weeks they're going to have enough Gorilla glass (or whatever it is Apple use) to slap onto several million patiently waiting iPhone 6 chasses? Sounds rather unlikely.

    1. ratfox
      Holmes

      More likely, the plan was always to put sapphire glass on the watch, which is quite common from semi-expensive watches.

      However, until one week ago, analysts and observers all thought that Apple would also put sapphire glass on phones. They risk nothing by pretending it, considering Apple emits about as much as a black hole.

      By the way, sources in the know tell me that the next model will have a holographic display. You saw it here first!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If they weren't sure about having enough sapphire, they'd make sure they have enough glass on hand. The glass screens cost only $3/ea, so even if they didn't end up using them that's a small price to pay for being prepared. Though they could perhaps be re-cut to be used in iPhone 5S and 5C.

      Though I have trouble believing the go / no-go decision was left to a week ago, that seems to be cutting it a bit too close.

  12. ID10T
    Trollface

    iPhone 6 S

    2015 - unveiling the new iPhone 6 S... the S stands for Sapphire!

  13. Financegozu

    So an analyst has a vague idea tha suddenly becomes a fact?

    How interesting!

  14. spam 1

    The sapphire seems to have been for the Applewatch...

  15. 2Fat2Bald

    Will it fly?

    For me, there is nothing particularly special here in the iPhone 6. I don't see any killer applications, or must have features. It's just moderately faster, NFC-enabled and comes in a range of sizes...

    Still, i'm sure that won't stop legions of people buying it because it's the "latest thing from Apple".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Will it fly?

      Mayne the market has moved on from how many cores, how fast are they, ... to the user interface and the ecosystem supporting it.

      For the people that buy the iPhone they find they are the best choice for them.

      People may criticize Apple, but I'd trade my soul to be selling a +$100 Billion product (in profit).

    2. Mitoo Bobsworth

      Re: Will it fly?

      Will it blend?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Apple fanbois were left scratching their heads"

    ...and soon they'll be scratching their shiny-but-sapphireless iPhone 6 screens as well. ;-P

  17. seatiger

    Pixie dust magical phone glass

    Sapphire phone screens? Is that the same pixie dust material that Vertu phones (running Android, but Symbian before that) have had for years?

    Isn´t that little Chinese outfit named Huawei releasing a phone with a Sapphire screen? Ah, yes, the Ascend P7 Sapphire.

    What a dissappointment from former market leader, Apple.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pixie dust magical phone glass

      "Sapphire phone screens? Is that the same pixie dust material that Vertu phones (running Android, but Symbian before that) have had for years?"

      Yeah, to be fair though, Vertu probably glued "sapphire" it on to their latest blinged-up recasing of the Nokia 3310 purely for the sake of making it more expensive. In fact, the top end model in their line includes a "sapphire glass" screen made from the Star of Bombay- it's absolutely unusable, but so obviously high-status that flashing it about is guaranteed to lure 83.7% of high-ranking royalty in most countries into sleeping with you.

      Which is nice.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pixie dust magical phone glass

        "...guaranteed to lure 83.7% of high-ranking royalty in most countries into sleeping with you. Which is nice."

        83.7% is "nice" only if you like that sort of thing (both genders and most ages). Not that there's anything wrong with that.

  18. ItsNotMe
    Devil

    What? No sapphire glass screens?

    Guess there is only one solution.

    People will just have to kill themselves. What other choice do they now have?

    1. Breen Whitman

      Re: What? No sapphire glass screens?

      Well, as they are Apple users, nothing will be lost.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Look, I know this is pedantry

    But sapphire is not a glass. It is a crystal, crystalline aluminium oxide. And sapphire is a coloured version of it, as is ruby. It's just that its technical name, corundum, doesn't sound sexy. I guess "silicon on sapphire" sounded better than "silicon on corundum" back in the day.

    Glass is an amorphous material. That's why you can stress harden it by ion bombardment, which increases the internal pressure at the surface so the glass remains in compression even if it is bent a bit (which is how gorilla glass works). Do the same thing with corundum and you will break the molecular bonds, weakening it.

  20. PonsonbyDeVille

    I have a 4 year old iPhone4 which still has an almost perfect screen.

    Just look after your frickin' phone more carefully, it really isn't that hard.

  21. Mad Hacker
    Thumb Down

    Disappointing Article.

    I don't expect El Reg to simply regurgitate some market analyst with a shoddy track record.

    This is covered in better detail here and proves this market analyst is not that reliable:

    Margolis's apparent transition to the "denial" stage of grief may be explained by his particular affinity for the GT-Apple partnership. His Twitter handle even reflects this: @Sapphirecover24.

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