Apple's big Corning investment hints at wireless charging and AR plans

Key Points
  • Apple could be counting on Corning to build glass or ceramic materials to support wireless charging in the next iPhones, says an Oppenheimer analyst.
  • Corning might also build lightweight glass necessary for Apple's rumored augmented reality glasses.
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Apple's plan to invest $200 million into Corning to spur U.S. manufacturing jobs are further indication of the company's plans to add wireless charging and augmented reality features to future iPhones, according to analysts.

Oppenheimer analyst Andrew Uerkwitz, who covers Corning, believes Apple is developing wireless charging technology for the next generation of iPhones, as has been previously suggested by other analysts. But that means Apple will have to use something other than metal on the back of the phone.

"Metal can interfere with wireless charging technology," he 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."

Uerkwitz also notes that those materials can be relatively expensive, which is one reason these next-generation iPhones could carry a higher price tag.

He estimates that Apple accounts for about 5 percent of Corning's business.

Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights has a different take: He thinks the investment is for Apple's rumored augmented reality glasses.

"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 also thinks Apple — with this investment — would demand exclusive rights to the intellectual property associated with this material.

Both Apple and Corning declined comment.

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