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Rumour: Apple iPhone 6 to feature super-strong sapphire screen

The rumour mill is buzzing with the news that the iPhone 6 could be a real jewel in the crown of Apple’s smartphone series, boasting a shiny new sapphire display.

Apple has reportedly signed a $578 million (£360 million) deal to open a factory in Arizona alongside GT Advanced Technologies, an American company that specialises in growing the crystals.

It’s not the first time that a sapphire twinkle has shone in Apple’s eye, with the iPhone 5S currently incorporating the gems in its Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

The presence of super-resilient sapphires in Apple products could soon become a signature of the electronics behemoth. Some have speculated that one of the reasons the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display weren’t glammed up with the gems is because sapphires run in short supply. Well, the new deal should fix that.

Crystals grown synthetically in labs are much stronger than their natural counterparts. Indeed, they’re so hard to cut that engineers use diamond-tipped saws to effectively shape it. It is currently a more expensive option than the glass normally put into smartphones, but increasing demand amongst electronics companies may lead to the implementation of more efficient processes and lower costs as a result.

According to a statement announcing the deal, GT claims that it has “accelerated the development of its next generation, large capacity ASF (advanced sapphire furnaces) to deliver low cost, high volume manufacturing of sapphire material. Although the agreement does not guarantee volumes, it does require GT to maintain a minimum level of capacity.”

With over 700 people reportedly set to be employed in the Arizona plant, it seems that the new deal falls nicely in line with Apple’s plan to return some of its manufacturing to the US, where it already manufactures its Mac Pro.

Rumours that the iPhone 6 could feature a larger 4.8in display sent Apple share prices flying in October, so it will be interesting to see how the ripples spread following this latest revelation.

Image Credit: Concept art by iNasko (deviantART)