Apple has begun shipping sapphire material produced by GT Advanced Technologies in an Apple-owned plant in Arizona to China. According to a UBS, Apple recently shipped US$1 million worth of material to China for iPhone display cover production for the company's next iPhone release.
UBS believes that Apple and GT Advanced have hundreds of sapphire furnaces running, and the Wall Street firm expects the 1,200 or so furnaces installed at the plant to be up and running later this year. Matt Margolis at The Obscure Analyst, believes that the facility was brought fully online by the end of March.
Apple and GT Advanced announced the partnership in 2013, and speculation on what the material would be used for quickly became a popular parlour game. Apple CEO Tim Cook said in February's annual shareholder meeting that the greater facility in Arizona, which is much bigger than just the sapphire plant, was for a product that would create a new ecosystem; but, speculation has persisted that Apple would be using sapphire for iPhone display covers.
Sapphire is hard, much harder than the Gorilla Glass that Apple has used on the iPhone since its introduction. it's more expensive, however, and Mr. Margolis believes that Apple will be paying between $8.50 and $10 per sapphire display.