Premium iPhone 6 models with sapphire glass may fetch a higher price

Apple is reportedly right on track to start mass production of the iPhone 6 this month, in anticipation of a rumored September 9 launch event. Most reports agree that the iPhone 6 will come in two sizes, be slimmer than ever before, and feature high-end specs. What’s less clear is whether it will have a sapphire glass screen or not.

Some of the earliest rumors hinted that Apple plans to make the iPhone 6 the first sapphire-encased smartphone. Ever since, reports have been contradictory, with many production line sources saying in recent months that the sapphire shortage is a problem. Some have said that Apple won’t release a sapphire iPhone this time around due to these constraints. But then, in mid August, the Wall Street Journal stated that Apple is toying with the idea of releasing select iPhone 6 models with a premium sapphire display for a higher price.

Related: iPhone 6: All the rumors and news

The report cited people familiar with Apple’s plans, who said that if the company can’t produce enough sapphire screens at its plants, including those in Arizona from GT Technologies, it plans to release more expensive versions of the two larger iPhones that will launch this fall with sapphire displays. It is unclear how many iPhone 6 units would feature sapphire screens, should Apple be unable to produce sufficient quantities of that key component in time for the September launch.

Eric Virey, a senior analyst at Yole Développement, a research company in France, believes that Apple is committed to its $700 million investment in sapphire glass and will have to charge more for the premium iPhone 6 model to keep its profit margins high. Virey estimates that sapphire screens cost $16 to make, as opposed to the $3 needed to manufacture Corning Gorilla Glass. It’s unclear how much more Apple plans to charge for the sapphire glass iPhone 6 models.

Related: iWatch: All the rumors and news

Notably, the Wall Street Journal also mentioned that the sapphire screens produced at the GT Technologies plant in Arizona this month are intended for Apple’s smartwatch, a.k.a. the iWatch, too. The article contained no further information about the iWatch, but if sapphire screens are currently in production for Apple’s first wearable, it stands to reason that it could be coming soon. Recent estimates peg the iWatch’s release for October or November of this year, although one report claims it will arrive alongside the iPhone 6 this September.

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