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Apple inks $578 million deal for sapphire production

Company signs agreement with GT Advanced Technologies to produce the sapphire material that has shown up in the iPhone 5 and 5S.


Sapphire material maker GT Advanced Technologies has won an important deal with Apple.

The iPhone maker has inked a contract with GT that will have the supplier producing sapphire-based materials at Apple's recently announced facility in Arizona. Apple will give GT $578 million in prepayment, which GT will reimburse to Apple over a period of five years, starting in 2015.

According to GT, Apple hasn't requested a certain production volume, but Apple has required that GT maintain "a minimum level of capacity." GT also says that the agreement will be financially beneficial to its operation.

The big question, however, is what specific materials GT will produce for Apple. Sapphire quietly has been making its presence known in Apple products, first appearing as protection for the iPhone 5's rear lens. Sapphire is also used in the Touch ID fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 5S.

It's widely believed that Apple has high hopes for sapphire -- the second-hardest stone in the world after diamonds. In September, the US Patent and Trademark Office published an Apple patent application describing a method by which sapphire could be used to build a consumer electronics device. Details were slim in the application, but indicated that Apple is at least thinking about ways to integrate sapphire more prominently in its products. This latest GT deal seems to prove that point all the more.

(Via All Things Digital)