Corning Launched Gorilla Glass 4 To Keep Sapphire Out Of The iPhone 7
Sapphire display rumors have come and gone for more than a year. At the time, Corning Corporation (NYSE: GLW) had no idea that GT Advanced Technologies would run into trouble, file for bankruptcy and prevent Apple from building sapphire displays for a future iPhone. Corning pushed on and continued to enhance its own product, hoping to reduce the sapphire onslaught.
"Sapphire demonstrated [that] the market wanted something that was harder than what Corning was putting out," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group, told Benzinga. "Thus [Corning made] Gorilla Glass 4, a much more robust product with the attributes of glass -- some flex, a much lower manufacturing cost and a much lower probability that [a crack] will cause the entire panel to fail."
Enderle said that Corning recognized "that it had to step up to the threat that sapphire represented and to step up with their own technology because they had to get around the inherent problems that sapphire had."
'A Market For Both'
Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry said that Gorilla Glass 4 is a "natural progression" for the company.
"Just like CPUs [where] chips get faster, smaller and [more] efficient," Chowdhry told Benzinga. "Similarly, the glass has to be lighter and stronger. Does this impact sapphire? I would say there's a market for each one of them. Sapphire glass suppliers are not very efficient in delivering [materials]. Look at the way that [GT Advanced] went belly-up."
Chowdhry said that in the consumer space, the product never waits for the supply chain.
"You are in for that moment of time or you disappear," he insisted. "If Apple had been waiting for sapphire to come, and because of that they would not have shipped the iPhone 6. Apple would have disappeared. In the consumer space, it takes just one wrong move and the company disappears. Apple was smart. They did not get themselves enslaved in a supplier. They saw the supplier was underperforming, was inefficient and useless so they went with whatever they could. In the consumer space, time is of the essence."
Sapphire iPhones Could Still Happen - With Corning's Help
Sean Udall, CIO of Quantum Trading Strategies and author of The TechStrat Report, doesn't think that Apple is ready to move on from its dream of producing an iPhone with a sapphire display.
"Apple will have the GT furnaces... and there are other sapphire makers," Udall told Benzinga. "I think [the] next iteration can definitely feature sapphire in a good portion of the models -- say, half of them -- if they want to."
Udall also speculated that Apple may hire a new company to takeover for GT Advanced.
"You never know, Apple could hire Corning to run the sapphire stuff," said Udall. "Lot's of things can happen between now and then. My tea leaf reading is they are about 12-18 months away from at least a good partial run."
Disclosure: At the time of this writing, Louis Bedigian had no position in the equities mentioned in this report.
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