Apple is reportedly looking to ramp sapphire crystal manufacturing operations with partner GT Advanced in a move that could ultimately mean tougher iPhone screens.
According to a report from 9to5 Mac's Mark Gurman, Apple has acquired enough sapphire crystal furnaces to make anywhere from 100 million to 200 million 5-inch iPhone displays.
The report, pieced together with documents and SEC filings, highlights how Apple is looking to differentiate its products. The move also highlights how manufacturing is moving back to the U.S. for key parts.
What's worth noting is that GT Advanced's work seems to be mostly for Apple these days. Given Apple's penchant for vertical integration an acquisition may be in order once GT Advanced proves it can deliver.
In any case, GT Advanced is expected to benefit from any Apple association. Analysts expect GT Advanced to deliver 2013 revenue of $303.9 million and $692.5 million in 2014. That's a nice 128 percent pop. However, GT Advanced's annual sales have been very lumpy ($544.2 million in 2010; $899 million in 2011 and $733.5 million in 2012).
The market appears to be expecting the good times ahead for GT Advanced. Here's the one year chart.