updated 01:43 pm EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
Supply chain numbers may only support limited run of sapphire models
Supply chain orders so far don't support the idea of the iPhone 6 using sapphire for its display, except perhaps in limited numbers, according to analysts with Trendforce. "Analysis of the iPhone 6 supply chain indicates related component suppliers need to ship products to OEMs for assembly in June 2014 to meet the September launch date. Yet, the research institute did not discover demands for smartphone cover glass," the firm writes. "The sapphire glass version new iPhone will be issued in limited volumes this year, mostly because sapphire ingot manufacturers yield rates were lower than forecasts and [because of] issues involved in sapphire glass processing."
It's suggested that Apple's current use of sapphire -- in camera lenses and Touch ID sensors -- should be enough to keep up sapphire demand through the rest of 2014. It's in fact argued that the iWatch might not use sapphire either, since mass-producing it for even 2.5-inch displays could be "problematic," especially if Apple chooses to use flexible OLED panels.
Despite problems with cost and manufacturing, sapphire is highly desirable for mobile devices, as it's significantly tougher than material like the Gorilla Glass used on many smartphones and tablets -- including Apple's. It's virtually impossible to scratch, and harder to break.