Apple announced Friday that it will be investing $200 million in smartphone glassmaker Corning as a part of its $1 billion advanced manufacturing jobs fund aimed to promote U.S. job creation. On paper, while the investment might sound like one of the company’s many ventures, but according to analysts, Apple might have made the investing, not just for job creation, but for the furtherance of technologies for its upcoming products.
Corning, for the uninitiated, is the largest smartphone display glass brand and the company behind Gorilla Glass.
The company stated that its investment would “support Corning’s R&D, capital equipment needs, and state-of-the-art glass processing.”
Oppenheimer analyst Andrew Uerkwitz told CNBC that the investment might be targeted at Apple’s move away from a metal frame in its previous iPhones to a glass one in iPhone 8. Switching to a glass frame is essential for the device and for the company’s rumored long-range wireless charging concept.
“Metal can interfere with wireless charging technology,” Uerkwitz told CNBC. “That means you need glass on the back of the phone, but glass that won’t break. Or you need to use ceramics. Corning has a long history of investing in both glass and ceramics.”
Another analyst, Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights stated that the investment might be more than what it seems – Apple might be looking to partner with Corning to develop glass for its Snapchat style AR glasses, another rumored upcoming product. Moorhead states that the companies are working together to develop a special glass that magnifies visuals to deliver a proper augmented reality experience.
“You need specialized glass in the headset, glass that properly magnifies the 180-degree experience of AR. Also, that glass has to be really light. Corning could develop that for Apple,” Moorhead said.
Both technologies have previously surfaced in rumors, leaks and even the company’s own patent filing.
In April, Apple filed a patent with the U.S. patent and Trade Mark office for long-range wireless charging, which would let you charge your device over Wi-Fi. The patent called ‘Wireless Charging and Communications Systems With Dual-Frequency Patch Antennas’ illustrated a way to transfer power to devices over data communication frequencies. The company could reportedly use a ‘smart connector’ accessory, which might help users charge their iPhones over Wi-Fi.
The AR Glasses too, even though they currently sound far-fetched might be launched by the end of the year. Apple has reportedly augmented reality expert Jeff Norris from NASA’s Jet propulsion Lab to help with the development of the product. A report published in March said that Apple had hired 1,000 engineers to work on the project in Israel. The technology might also be featured on the company’s upcoming iPhone 8.
Apple has also reportedly engaged glass maker Carl Zeiss to make a frame for the glasses, a report said in January.