As the sapphire is made in ever fatter ingots, the price per kg will come down. Currently, at least with the pieces I’ve seen, it’s about the shape and size of the sort of candle you might put on a dinner table. In the coming years we all expect it to get wider and wider, as silicon has done, fattening to the girth of a fat candle carried in the church parade all the way up to the “elephant’s tampon girth” of current silicon ingots. We would also expect production costs to come down as they have with silicon: perhaps not a 10x reduction, but no one can see why a 3x or 4x wouldn’t be achievable.
Apple probably has a head start as the company vertically integrates the capability of manufacturing and designing a sapphire cover glass into its iPhone. But with many other sapphire ingot manufacturers around the world the rest of the smartphone industry will quickly follow. I expect to see iPhone 6 with a sapphire cover glass next year, but other companies such as Samsung will likely introduce sapphire cover glass protected smartphones too. According to LEDinside there are several sapphire ingot manufacturers all over the world:
- China: Crystaland, Harbin Aurora, Silian
- Japan: Kyocera, Namiki
- Russia: Monocrystal
- South Korea: Astec, STC
- Taiwan: ProCrystal, Tera Xtal, USIO
- US: Rubicon
Most sapphire ingots are used for the manufacture of LEDs, but my guess is a shift toward an immensely large potential market for smartphone cover glass applications. As the sapphire ingots grow in size and prices come down tablets will also be protected by cover glasses made of sapphire soon after.