Tony Tripeny, SVP at Corning, was asked about sapphire versus glass by analyst James Fawcett.
"So we mentioned Sapphire and obviously there is one large handset and device maker that people suspect maybe looking at Sapphire. And at least from a Corning perspective, [what are] the puts and takes of Sapphire versus glass?"
To which Tripeny responded:
When we look at it, we see a lot of disadvantages of Sapphire versus Gorilla Glass. It's about 10 times more expensive. It's about 1.6 times heavier. It's environmentally unfriendly. It takes about 100 times more energy to generate a Sapphire crystal than it does glass. It transmits less light which...means either dimmer devices or shorter battery life. It continues to break. I think while it's a scratch resistant product it still breaks and our testing says that Gorilla Glass [can take] about 2.5 times more pressure that it can take...Sapphire on. So when we look at it, we think from an overall industry and trend that is not attractive in consumer electronics.
Fawcett also asked Tripeny if the price of sapphire glass would decrease as production levels increased. Tripeny said it's the yield issue that makes it more expensive.
I think it's really a combination of three things. The formation takes about 4,000 times longer than Gorilla Glass at a significantly higher melting temperature. Its hardness makes machining more difficult and costly. Then the cost per unit increases exponentially because when you have defects in boundaries in the crystal growth process, you essentially cut them out. And so unlike glass, where we have developed technologies so that we can have [a] very large pristine pieces of glass, when you have that on crystals, what you end up doing is always having a yield issue. So it is really those items that make things more expensive.
Apple has reportedly partnered with GT Advanced for production of sapphire glass that will be used for the next generation iPhone display. Thus, it's expected that Corning would tout it's Gorilla Glass technology over sapphire.