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iPhone 6 rumor rollup for the week ending January 31

John Cox | Feb. 4, 2014
There's nothing like a document, with quotable information, to get the iOSphere's juices and rumors flowing. One document that surfaced this week fueled anew rumors that the iPhone 6 will have the almost scratch-proof synthetic sapphire screen.

There's nothing like a document, with quotable information, to get the iOSphere's juices and rumors flowing. One document that surfaced this week fueled anew rumors that the iPhone 6 will have the almost scratch-proof synthetic sapphire screen.

Also this week, predictions that Lenovo's decision to buy Google's struggling Motorola smartphone business will for sure affect Apple and the iPhone 6. No one seems quite sure how, though.

And let's not overlook new patents or patent applications: the iOSphere was giddy at the prospect of pressure sensitive touchscreens, and interchangeable camera lenses.

You read it here second.

iPhone 6 will have sapphire glass screen
9to5Mac discovered some recently-published federal correspondence that shows Apple is moving fast to get its big new synthetic sapphire crystal manufacturing plant up and running in February. But exactly what the plant will be making, or what Apple will be using the nearly scratch-proof material for, is still unclear. And that makes it a perfect breeding ground for iOSphere rumors.

Apple announced in November that it was opening up the plant in Mesa Ariz., in a $578 million joint operations deal with GT Advanced Technologies. GT is apparently providing, and running, the advanced furnaces for manufacturing the sapphire crystal in bulk. To get a sense of what the process entails, check out this enterprising April 2013 report by PocketNow, which visited GT's Salem, Mass., sapphire plant.

What you end up with is a cylindrical mass of industrial sapphire weighing just over 250 pounds and called a "boule." Here's what it looks like. Wikipedia has more details on synthetic sapphire. And GT has information about its furnace products. 

Gurman's post at 9to5Mac draws on some new information in the "Production Notification Application" filed Dec. 30, 2013, by the City of Mesa, Ariz., for "Project Cascade."

This brief document is seeking "expedited" approval from the U.S. Foreign Trade Zone Board, "so that we can meet an aggressive go-live timeline of February 2014," according to James Patton, Apple's deputy director, global trade compliance, in a brief, Dec. 17, 2013 letter.

The application describes the plant in general terms: "Project Cascade will conduct high-tech manufacturing of intermediate goods/components for consumer electronics. All finished components will be exported. This high-tech manufacturing process will create a critical new sub-component of Apple Products to be used in the manufacture of the consumer electronics that will be imported and then sold globally. By pulling this process into the U.S., Apple will be using cutting edge, new technology to enhance and improve the consumer products, making them best in class per product type."

From this point, Gurman's post and all the others, including this one — is largely about interpreting these texts. One interpretation is that the Mesa plant is simply creating sapphire boules (intermediate goods?) to ship overseas to other Apple supply chain companies, to be worked into final form, whether camera lens covers or part of a new display panel assembly. Or the plant may bulk-manufacture the sapphire and do some kind of additional work to prepare it for the supply chain.

 

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