According to J.P. Morgan’s research, Apple will release a sapphire-free version of the iPhone 6 this fall but has plans to release a premium version of the device featuring a sapphire display in 2015.
“Although we have channel indications that some sapphire devices will be produced, we actually lean toward Apple selling no sapphire phones this year,” writes J.P. Morgan analyst Rod Hall. “On sapphire as a feature — we see it as a huge phone seller. The screens are reportedly unscratchable (except by diamond) and virtually indestructible. We believe most people will want sapphire when and if it ever becomes available.”
The big hangup for mass-producing an iPhone 6 with a sapphire display right now is that it’s just too expensive — Hall estimates that given Apple partners’ current manufacturing capabilities at the moment, manufacturing sapphire displays for tens of millions of iPhone models would cost about 10 times more than doing the same with Gorilla Glass.
However, he also notes that Apple’s sapphire manufacturing partner GT Advanced Technologies has just acquired a company that uses a Hyperion ion implantation process that’s expected to significantly reduce costs. This means that a sapphire iPhone display at this point looks more like a matter of “when” and not “if.”