How many ways can you say ‘sapphire is expensive’?

August 15, 2014, 8:24 AM UTC

In the latest in a series of stories about Apple’s partnership with GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT), a leading producer of synthetic sapphire, the Wall Street Journal‘s Daisuke Wakabayashi quotes unnamed “people familiar with the matter” saying that Apple is considering using the material to replace Corning’s (GLW) Gorilla Glass on the screens of iPhones expected to released in September.

Mid August seems a little late for Apple to still be “considering” such a change.

But that’s not Wakabayashi’s point. His point, which he makes repeatedly, relentlessly, is that sapphire is expensive.

Quoting from his piece (emphasis mine):

— New iPhone: A Sapphire Screen and a Higher Cost
— Apple Considers Using Harder Material in Pricier Models
— Manufacturing synthetic sapphire is costly
— Analyst Mr. Virey estimates that a sapphire screen could cost $16 to produce, compared with about $3 for Gorilla Glass
— Apple is considering using sapphire screens in more-expensive models of the two new, larger iPhones
— Some analysts expect Apple to charge more for the phones than previous new models, because of increased component costs.
— If the use of sapphire leads to fewer broken screens, Apple may save money in warranty costs. But Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi says those savings likely wouldn’t offset sapphire’s higher cost.
— If Apple doesn’t raise prices, the higher cost could erode the iPhone’s profit margins
— A few small smartphone manufacturers have already introduced handsets with sapphire screens. Britain’s Vertu Corp., which makes luxury phones costing more than $10,000

Wakabayashi waits until the penultimate paragraph to mention that Apple and GT might have found a way to reduce those costs:

“By forming boules more than 50% larger than produced by current machines, Apple and GT aim to drive down the price of sapphire and close the gap with glass.”

Thanks to the crew at Investor Village’s AAPL Sanity for spotting it.

LINK: New iPhone: A Sapphire Screen and a Higher Cost

Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter at @philiped. Read his Apple (AAPL) coverage at or subscribe via his RSS feed.