Is Apple ditching hopes for sapphire screens in favour of the Cloud?

Sapphire glass

It looks like Apple could be letting go of its ambition to include the super resilient sapphire glass in upcoming iPhone models, spending $2billion to convert the factory it had wanted to produce sapphire glass into a data centre.

Before the launch of the iPhone 6 rumours had swirled that it would come with sapphire glass, however it never came to pass. It was later revealed that Apple was working with GT Advanced Technologies Inc to create a sapphire glass production factory in Mesa, Arizona.

The relationship ran into trouble when it became clear that GT Advanced Technologies Inc could not produce the screens at the speed and quantity Apple wanted, and later filed for bankruptcy.

Hasn't got the minerals

Sapphire is a gem that is slow to grow and very difficult to produce reliably on a large scale. It is also expensive and less environmentally friendly, which could all be reasons why GT Advanced Technologies Inc and Apple's partnership failed, and why the Cupertino company could be moving away from sapphire.

Apple is now looking to spend $2 billion on turning the 1.3 million-square-foot factory that had been earmarked to produce sapphire glass into a large data centre to help power its cloud-based services such as the Siri virtual assistant.

Kristin Huguet, a spokesperson for Apple, told Bloomberg: "we're proud to continue investing in the U.S. with a new data center in Arizona, which will serve as a command center for our global networks. This multibillion-dollar project is one of the largest investments we've ever made."

This move could spell an end to Apple's sapphire ambitions, although it may only be temporary. If a company can come up with a more reliable way of creating sapphire glass with better yields, then it might get a rather enthusiastic phone call from Apple.

Matt Hanson
Managing Editor, Core Tech

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. He’s personally reviewed and used most of the laptops in our best laptops guide - and since joining TechRadar in 2014, he's reviewed over 250 laptops and computing accessories personally.