Analyst who cried sapphire takes another swing, despite whiffing on iPhone 6 predictions
A financial analyst focused almost exclusively on Apple's relationship with sapphire maker GT Advanced Technologies was supremely confident that the iPhone 6 would feature a sapphire screen cover. That prediction was dead wrong, but it hasn't stopped him from continuing to stand by his sources, and even strangely still hoping for a sapphire-covered iPhone 6.
"The most sought after feature on the iPhone 6 was a sapphire cover screen and Apple needs to deliver a sapphire covered iPhone sooner rather than later," analyst Matt Margolis of PTT Research wrote in a new note on Wednesday, remaining focused on the dream of a sapphire-protected iPhone screen. Citing supply chain sources, he claims that sapphire screen yields were too low for Apple to use in the iPhone 6, and ended up missing the cut by a matter of "weeks."
The iPhone 6 lacks a sapphire cover, and not even all Apple Watch models will feature the material.
Margolis's explanations come after months of claims that GT Advanced Technologies would be producing massive amounts of sapphire for Apple — enough to create display covers of the hardened material for iPhone 6 units to be sold this year.
The analyst's confident predictions didn't pan out, though. In fact, none of Apple's iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus models feature sapphire screen covers. Apple has said this year's models feature "ion-strengthened" glass.
Not even all Apple Watch models will utilize sapphire covers, with the basic "Sport" lineup featuring "strengthened 'Ion-X' glass."
Though sapphire iPhone hype had built for months, driven in part by Margolis, AppleInsider cautioned back in June that sapphire covers on the new iPhone models seemed unlikely. Sapphire is more expensive than the Gorilla Glass that Apple has used in all iPhone models to date. It's also more difficult to manufacture, and some tests show it's more prone to break and shatter.
Sapphire supporters like Margolis believed and hoped that Apple and GT Advanced may have secretly discovered some sort of breakthrough that would allow Apple to build entire iPhone displays, and even iPads, made of the material this year, all while keeping up with overwhelming consumer demand for those products. They were convinced that sapphire was bound to make a big splash, thanks to a $578 million contract Apple had inked with GT, resulting in scratch-proof covers for the iPhone 6 and beyond.
But the truth is that Apple has already been using sapphire in products for the last year: The iPhone 5s Touch ID home button is protected by the material, and the camera lenses on the back of the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s both feature sapphire.
This year, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are expected to be the best selling iPhones yet. And Apple continues to sell the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c, both of which already use sapphire.
And it's also rumored that new iPad models expected to arrive later this year will also feature Touch ID fingerprint sensors with sapphire. In all, Apple could approach or even exceed 100 million iPhone and iPad units this fall, all of which could use sapphire in some form or another.
And starting in early 2015, two of the three styles of Apple Watch will also feature sapphire not only on the cover, but also protecting the heart rate monitor on the back.
In short, Apple's going to need a lot of sapphire.
As of Wednesday, however, Margolis was sticking by his sources. He claims that Apple had planned to use sapphire covers on the iPhone 6 up until "weeks ago," when yield rates remained poor and the material was abruptly abandoned.
He still holds hope that iPhone 6 cover screens will be made of sapphire, even after Apple's announcement. In his latest note, he said GT's output from its Arizona facility is "excessive," and that it will "continue to be grown for iPhone 6 cover screens."
Margolis's apparent transition to the "denial" stage of grief may be explained by his particular affinity for the GT-Apple partnership. His Twitter handle even reflects this: @Sapphirecover24.
To quote the legendary fictional detective Sherlock Holmes: "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."