Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.


This is entirely true. I’ve had this article in my “possible links” collection since it was published on September 10, titled “Analyst Who Cried Sapphire Takes Another Swing, Despite Whiffing on iPhone 6 Predictions”. It’s by Neil Hughes of AppleInsider.

I’ve had it kicking around for a while because I didn’t know what to do with it. It seemed silly and pathetic at the time, and I thought I could make fun of this hilariously out-of-touch analyst who says stuff like this:

He still holds hope that iPhone 6 cover screens will be made of sapphire, even after Apple’s announcement. In his latest note, he said GT’s output from its Arizona facility is “excessive,” and that it will “continue to be grown for iPhone 6 cover screens.”

In light of recent events, however, I’ve decided to let this pass, for three big reasons.

First, it seems kind of mean to make fun of a guy like this:

Margolis’s apparent transition to the “denial” stage of grief may be explained by his particular affinity for the GT-Apple partnership. His Twitter handle even reflects this: @Sapphirecover24.

I mean, come on — it’s kind of adorable, isn’t it? It must be pretty heartbreaking for this analyst, considering he was so bearish on GT Advanced.

That’s the second reason I’m sympathetic to this analyst: this came out of nowhere.

All of the iPhones in Apple’s lineup use sapphire, and their upcoming watch will use it for its display, with the exception of the Sport model. It’s also expected that the new generation of iPads, set to launch in a week, will have Touch ID sensors that will also use sapphire. If GT Advanced were Apple’s only sapphire supplier, they’d probably be at the peak of their output.

But the third reason is how wildly off-base AppleInsider’s Hughes is, not the analyst.

Sapphire supporters like Margolis believed and hoped that Apple and GT Advanced may have secretly discovered some sort of breakthrough that would allow Apple to build entire iPhone displays, and even iPads, made of the material this year, all while keeping up with overwhelming consumer demand for those products. They were convinced that sapphire was bound to make a big splash, thanks to a $578 million contract Apple had inked with GT, resulting in scratch-proof covers for the iPhone 6 and beyond.

You can almost feel the mockery through your screen. It’s just short of “Hey everybody, let’s all point and laugh at the stupid analyst.”

But it increasingly looks like the analyst — PTT Research’s Matt Margolis — wasn’t entirely batshit crazy. No, the iPhone 6 does not have and will not have a sapphire display.1 But, according to the Wall Street Journal, Apple was actually considering using sapphire for iPhone displays, possibly even for the 6:

As recently as a few months ago, Apple engineers were testing iPhone prototypes with a sapphire screen cover, according to the people familiar with the matter. By using sapphire as an alternative to hardened glass, Apple was hoping for a more scratch- and shatter-resistant cover for its flagship smartphones, they said.

In the end, Apple decided to scrap the sapphire screens for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus and stick with Corning Inc.’s heavy-duty Gorilla Glass.

Maybe the Journal is wrong, and AppleInsider should gloat, as Daniel Eran Dilger so frequently and unfortunately does. But I think this is a pretty depressing story all around: a promising and innovative company gone bankrupt, hundreds and perhaps thousands of people potentially losing their jobs, and a really sad analyst to top it all off. And Dilger is dancing on GT’s grave, because that’s what he does.

Back to AppleInsider’s Hughes for the final word, from a month ago:

To quote the legendary fictional detective Sherlock Holmes: “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”


  1. I’m just talking about the iPhone 6 here, not necessarily the 6S, or whatever. ↩︎