Sapphire screens for bigger iPhone, iWatch now heading off to Apple factories

Apple could be reserving sapphire screens for expensive iPhones and the iWatch.

Apple is planning to use synthetic sapphire for the screens of higher-end iPhone models, as well the display for its yet-to-be-released smartwatch, the Wall Street Journal reports.

According to the publication, Apple is "considering" using sapphire screens for "more expensive models" of two new larger display iPhones and its long-rumoured iWatch. The idea behind using synthetic sapphire is to create a screen more resistant to both cracking and scratches,.

Taking sapphire to iPhone and iWatch screens will extend the material's use beyond its current function on Apple devices of shielding the iPhone 5S' Touch ID home button. Rumours of Apple's plans to use the material more widely have been circulating for the past year due to its tighter relationship with component supplier GT Advanced Technologies. Apple has  reportedly acquired enough crystal furnaces to make up to 200 million five-inch displays.

According to the WSJ report, the first of the sapphire screens developed by the pair will begin rolling out of Apple's new manufacturing facility in Mesa, Arizona this month.

It's thought Apple will take the wraps off a 5.5-inch display iPhone, expected to be called the iPhone 6, as well as a 4.7-inch display device this September.

However, according to the report, the plan to use sapphire in the displays on phones hinges on Apple's ability to get to enough of the material to meet production demands. And given those constraints, the material may be reserved for more expensive iPhones.

As others have noted, if the report is correct, it could spell a pretty radical pricing strategy overhaul for Apple's key product. The company has historically set price points based on storage capacity, and offered multiple generations of devices at different prices, but hasn't charged a premium for different materials on the same model.

Analysts quoted in the report believe that sapphire screens would introduce a new risk for the company. On the one hand, the tougher material could mean fewer shattered screens that need replacing. On the other, shortages of the material could throw a spanner in the works of Apple's distribution schedule, creating shortages during peak demand.

Whether Apple ultimately does offer a premium-priced line of its new phones will all be revealed next month: the latest iPhone is expected to be released on 9 September .

Read more on the iPhone 6