9to5Mac reports that Apple is aggressively pursuing the launch of its new plant in Mesa, Arizona by February.
In November 2013, Apple had confirmed that the company was planning to setup a sapphire glass production facility in Mesa, Arizona with GT Advanced Technologies.
9t5oMac has got hold of documents, which has revealed that James J. Patton, Apple’s Deputy Director of Global Trade Compliance has requested for expedited approval from the Foreign-Trade Zone Board for two requests that would allow Apple to meet its timeline of opening the plant by February 2014.
The documents also reveal that Apple is planning to make a critical sub-component for its products at the sapphire plant. Apple already uses sapphire glass to protect the camera lens on the iPhone and iPad, and also for Touch ID fingerprint sensor, but the nature of the request (“a new sub-component”) suggests that the critical component may be used for some other reason.
Here’s an excerpt from the document:
Project Cascade will conduct high-tech manufacturing of intermediate goods/components for consumer electronics. All finished components will be exported. This high-tech manufacturing process will create a critical new sub-component of Apple Products to be used in the manufacture of the consumer electronics that will be imported and then sold globally. By pulling this process into the U.S., Apple will be using cutting edge, new technology to enhance and improve the consumer products, making them best in class per product type.
Apple has reportedly started trial production of iPhones with sapphire glass display, so it is possible that the critical sub-component Apple is referring to in the document is the sapphire glass display meant for iPhone 6. If the plant opens in February, Apple would have to ramp up production quite quickly if it has to meet iPhone’s demand.
Alternatively, the critical sub-component could also sapphire glass display for Apple’s rumored iWatch.
According to Seeking Alpha analyst Matt Margolis, Apple may have even more ambitious plans with the sapphire glass display. He has discovered a job posting which suggests that Apple may be planning to add a solar-based wireless charging feature to the next generation iPhone by embedding ultra-thin solar cells onto sapphire glass display.
One of the main reasons for iPhone warranty claims is cracked and broken screens, so it would be great if iPhone 6 comes with nearly unbreakable sapphire glass display to improve durability.
Update: In my opinion, and it’s just a speculation, iWatch seems to make the most sense, as I find it hard to believe that Apple will be able to scale up production of sapphire glass displays so quickly to meet the demand of the new iPhone. In case of the iWatch, it will be able to control the launch of the iWatch by staggering the launch across the world. Also, the solar-charging sapphire display seems like a more ideal solution for the iWatch, as it would mean that your smartwatch would get charged to extend battery life whenever you step out. Taking the iPhone out of your pocket to expose it to the Sun or leaving it in the Sun to charge it just doesn’t seem like the ideal solution.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.