Canonical CEO: Apple ‘Snapped Up’ Sapphire Displays

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Does Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) have sapphire plans that extend beyond the next-generation iPhone? During a recent conference call about his company’s plans for an Ubuntu-powered mobile phone, Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth revealed that Apple had “snapped up the entire 3-year supply of the same sapphire display we wanted for the Edge,” reports GigaOM. Shuttleworth was referring to the Ubuntu Edge, a smartphone development project that was seeking funding through Indiegogo. Although the crowdfunding for the project topped $12 million, it failed to reach its $32 million funding goal before the deadline last year. The Ubuntu Edge would have used a 4.5-inch sapphire glass screen.

Although Apple currently uses Corning’s (NYSE:GLW) Gorilla Glass for its mobile device displays, the California-based company is widely believed to be developing a sapphire-covered iPhone. Apple made a $578 million investment in a sapphire manufacturing facility run by GT Advanced Technologies last year, and import-export documents uncovered by 9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman and analyst Matt Margolis strongly suggest that the plant will be producing sapphire displays for the next-generation iPhone. Apple already uses sapphire as a protective covering for the Touch ID fingerprint scanner and for the lens for the iPhone’s camera.

Based on the number of sapphire furnaces that GT Advanced Technologies has already received, Margolis estimated that the plant already has the capability to produce between “103 million and 116 million ~5-inch displays per year.” Additional machines on order could further boost the plant’s production by another 84 million to 94 million displays, giving the plant a potential sapphire display production capacity of over 200 million.

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