Apple's Jewels: Insight Into Its Innovative Processhttp://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/01/28/apples-family-jewels-and-two-new-babies.aspx Malcolm Manness
January 28, 2014
A patent application was reported for Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) that shows how it continues to innovate in the mobile computing/communications space. More importantly, it gives the investor an insightful view into the strategic planning that sets Apple apart from other companies.
Apple has a particular focus on how to approach implementing innovative technology into its product line, and lead with breaking technology, while other companies always seem to be following. Look at two innovations in the iPhone 5s: the 64-bit processor, and the Touch ID sensor. In both cases, competitors are scrambling to catch up.
The main competitors include Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android and Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows Phone 8. Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF), which makes both Android and Windows phones, has been rumored to be looking at biosensors, particularly iris recognition, in an answer to Touch ID. Meanwhile, NVIDIA has a new Tegra K1 system processor chip that comes in a 64-bit configuration, attempting to pass Apple's proprietary A7. They include very high-performance graphics processing hardware that is a major advance.
Android leading in larger phones
Now The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple will introduce not one, but two new larger-sized iPhones this year. According to its sources, one will sport a screen size of about 4.5 inches, and the other, something around 5 inches. The original iPhone had a 3.5-inch screen. Last year's iPhone 5, and subsequent models, all sport 4-inch screens.
Jewels enter the iPhone
On Nov. 4 last year, GT Advanced Technologies announced an agreement with Apple on the purchase of sapphire-production capacity. The agreement calls for Apple to provide $578 million in prepayments, which are financing the building of a facility in Mesa, Ariz.
On Jan. 23, 9to5Mac reported that Apple has advertised to hire Manufacturing Design Engineers, based in Mesa, to "provide end-to-end manufacturing and process solutions for key design features" for the iPhone and iPod. It appears the process is ramping up.
Apple initiated the use of sapphire in the iPhone 5 as a cover for the camera lens. In the new iPhone 5s, it is also used in the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Sapphire is nine on the Mohs scale -- the second hardest mineral after diamond -- harder even than Gorilla Glass by Corning (NYSE: GLW) currently used for screens in iPhones and other high-end smartphones. Samsung has signed a new contract with Corning that will, among other things, provide:
Gorilla Glass screens reportedly cost about $3 each, while sapphire glass has been in the $20-$30 range. That price can drop. Tim Worstall of The Register wrote in May of last year:
He concludes his report:
It does appear to be realistic, especially if production costs come down, and that precisely is Tim Cook's forte.
Patent application from 2012 provided clues