The iPhone 6 could blow us all away with a new sapphire-coated glass display that has solar cells embedded directly into it.
An all-sapphire screen would be impressive enough in its own right, given that nothing short of a diamond can scratch its surface, but it’s what could theoretically be hidden beneath the screen’s layers that’s really got us excited.
The rumour comes from investor Matt Margolis, who has been following Apple’s acquisitions and patents rather closely over the years. So, where to begin?
READ MORE: iPhone 6 preview
For starters, Apple has filed solar patents which will theoretically allow it to power its iDevices directly through solar cells built into their screen coverings.
That might not mean much on its own, particularly given the number of crazy patents manufacturers file on a regular basis, but there are other clues which add meat to this particular rumour bone. Not least that Alcatel showed off a prototype with just such a technology at CES this month – and it was almost completely transparent.
Apple has already posted and filled a position for a Thin Films Engineer with solar experience, and it’s also recently advertised a position for a Manufacturing Design Engineer position which includes scribing and PVD coating – both related to thin solar cell films and laser etching.
As if that wasn’t enough, Apple signed a US$578 million deal with GT Advanced Technology last November in a deal which provides them with sapphire materials.
This deal managed to reduce the cost of GT Advanced Technology’s sapphire screens from US$13-$18 each to US$3-$5 each. A Gorilla Glass display costs US$3, so a full sapphire display has now become cost-effective for Apple to utilise in bulk.
While the iPhone 5s uses sapphire to protect its camera lens and Touch ID Home button, a recent report by Taiwanese newspaper Apple Daily states that Apple has already created at least 100 iPhones with full sapphire-coated displays, hinting at its future intentions.
Thinner iPhones, workable iWatches
Put all of the pieces together, and it looks like we could be getting an iPhone with an unscratchable screen that can charge it up throughout the day.
The iPhone 6 could however become even thinner, as a smaller battery could be used to reduce bulk, while the screen’s solar cells make up for the lost juice.
The mythical iWatch would also benefit greatly from this magical screen technology – scratch-resistance is an important facet of any premium watch, and battery life is one of the key issues facing all wearables.
READ MORE: iWatch preview
We’re seeking further comment to find out whether this rumour has any basis in reality, and we’ll update this story when we get it.