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macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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17,411



iphone_5_camera_sapphire-250x354.jpg
While Apple has received much praise for the aesthetics of its iPhone designs, it has also received criticism over durability issues, with many users unfortunately experiencing the problems with glass displays after dropping their devices onto hard surfaces. The iPhone 4 and 4S in particular have received criticism for their use of glass rear panels in addition to the front panel needed to accommodate the devices' displays.

On the iPhone 5 and fifth-generation iPod touch, Apple began using sapphire crystal to cover the rear camera, providing superior durability and scratch resistance.
Although the surface of the iSight camera is as clear as glass, it's not made of glass. It's actually sapphire crystal, whose hardness is second only to diamond on the scale of transparent materials. That means the surface of the lens is far less likely to scratch.
As MIT Technology Review reports, however, smartphone users may find their entire screens covered by sapphire instead of glass in the relatively near future.
Sapphire, a crystalline form of aluminum oxide, probably won't ever be as cheap as Gorilla Glass, the durable material from Corning that's used to make screens on iPhones and other smartphones. A Gorilla Glass display costs less than $3, while a sapphire display would cost about $30. But that could fall below $20 in a couple of years thanks to increased competition and improving technology, says Eric Virey, an analyst for the market research firm Yole Développement. And since sapphire performs better than glass, that price could make it cheap enough to compete, he says.
Virey says that all major mobile phone makers are considering using sapphire instead of glass, with some high-end smartphones perhaps moving to sapphire as soon as late this year. The report does not, however, address whether Apple is seriously looking at expanding its use of sapphire beyond the camera cover glass.

The report also outlines how cheaper options involving laminating a thin layer of sapphire onto a cheaper material are also under development, moves that could bring the price premium over Gorilla Glass to only three or four times with the potential to come down even further.

Corning is of course not standing still with its Gorilla Glass products either, having announced Gorilla Glass 3 earlier this year. The new glass offers significantly greater strength and scratch resistance than its predecessors and could also be used to make thinner displays.

Article Link: Future Smartphone Displays May Use Sapphire Instead of Glass
 

daneoni

macrumors G4
Mar 24, 2006
10,807
79
Sweet. My watch has a sapphire face and whilst there are scratches all over the bracelet, the face is still pristine. Problem with sapphire on a phone is that although scratch resistant, it easily shatters.
 

Gav2k

macrumors G3
Jul 24, 2009
9,216
1,607
Most scratched iPhones I see its the coating that's scratched not the glass. And let's face it the issue with the ip5 is the aluminium not the glass.
 

Dwalls90

Contributor
Feb 5, 2009
5,246
3,530
I don't know about the need for this. Gorilla Glass 3 seems pretty darn good and I can't see Apple wanting to see $20-30 being chipped away from their profit margins.
 

AQUADock

macrumors 65816
Mar 20, 2011
1,049
37
when the time comes, we should only worry about dropping the phone on diamonds

Future threads on MacRumors: I dropped my bag of diamonds on the floor and consequently dropped my iphone on the diamonds, will apple replace my phone for free?
 

mallwitt

macrumors member
Oct 16, 2011
30
0
Minneapolis, MN
Hardness should not be confused with ductility and fracture resistance. I'm not sure exactly what the structure of manufactured sapphire is, but it may be more prone to shattering than glass, even while more resistant to scratching. I don't have a huge problem with scratching - it's the dropping that worries me with my iPhone.

Diamond is the hardest substance known, but it will still shatter comparatively easily. Diamond is a single crystal, so there are no internal crystalline boundaries to stop fracture spread (as in metals and glass). I don't know if it's true of sapphire, or manufactured layer sapphire. Does anyone here?
 

Bubba Satori

Suspended
Feb 15, 2008
4,726
3,756
B'ham
I don't know about the need for this. Gorilla Glass 3 seems pretty darn good and I can't see Apple wanting to see $20-30 being chipped away from their profit margins.

Of course not.
$60 will be added to the Sapphire model to cover the $20-$30 material cost.
There will be stampedes in the waiting lines and Anderson Cooper will have on the scene coverage.
 

djacopille

macrumors newbie
Oct 8, 2003
10
37
Not going to happen

Harder things are more scratch resistant, but also more brittle. If the problem is shattering the solution is not making the screen more brittle.

A non-brittle, impact resistant material coated with an extremely thing coating of sapphire, or better yet diamond, would be ideal.
 

Avatar74

macrumors 65816
Feb 5, 2007
1,398
72
Sapphire crystal is fairly shatter resistant when it's exceptionally thick. But the thickness of the sapphire crystal on my wristwatch would not be practical for an iPhone.

A possible alternative would be transparent aluminum (yes, Star Trek fans, it actually exists in the form of aluminum oxynitride, aka ALON, manufactured by the Surmet Corporation)... it's not quite as hard as sapphire, but ballistics-grade shatter resistant at 1/6th the thickness of the equivalent glass armor. Its cost is currently comparable to synthetic sapphire.
 

2bikes

macrumors 6502
Mar 9, 2012
420
4
Could the sapphire lens cover be a trial for a larger production? Like Apple TV being trial ground for processors?
 

Jibbajabba

macrumors 65816
Aug 13, 2011
1,017
2
Sweet. My watch has a sapphire face and whilst there are scratches all over the bracelet, the face is still pristine. Problem with sapphire on a phone is that although scratch resistant, it easily shatters.

True re:watch .. My sapphire watch is from 1993 and still no single scratch (but yes, bracelet and whatnot are scratched to death lol)
 

iPhysicist

macrumors 65816
Nov 9, 2009
1,338
993
Dresden
Sapphire crystal is fairly shatter resistant when it's exceptionally thick. But the thickness of the sapphire crystal on my wristwatch would not be practical for an iPhone.

A possible alternative would be transparent aluminum (yes, Star Trek fans, it actually exists in the form of aluminum oxynitride, aka ALON, manufactured by the Surmet Corporation)... it's not quite as hard as sapphire, but ballistics-grade shatter resistant at 1/6th the thickness of the equivalent glass armor. Its cost is currently comparable to synthetic sapphire.

Aluminum is EASILY to scratch, do you want that as a screen?
 

technopimp

macrumors 6502a
Aug 12, 2009
645
217
Excellent. All my watches have sapphire crystals and they never have been scratched. However, my months old iPhone 5 (which I never keep anywhere near abrasive materials) has a deep scratch in the screen (not in the coating, in the glass itself).
 

Avatar74

macrumors 65816
Feb 5, 2007
1,398
72
Aluminum is EASILY to scratch, do you want that as a screen?

ALON/aluminum oxynitride has 85% of the hardness of synthetic sapphire and it's technically a ceramic... It's not the same as the aluminum you're thinking of.
 

XtraSmiley

macrumors regular
Sep 16, 2006
106
1
Apple has billions, they need to spend some of that money and build cooler techs!

Diamonds are not as rare as the industry makes people think. What about diamond screens?
 

fruitpunch.ben

macrumors 6502a
Sep 16, 2008
597
174
Surrey, BC
I've never dropped my iPhone. Not to say that it can't happen, but there are people that are just plain careless.

I've dropped my phone twice, one onto its back once onto its front. No scratches on the screen, just some dings in the bezel. I was lucky!
Sure it was because I was careless. I was holding my phone as a flashlight and it slipped out of my hand. Or once I was holding my phone while getting my son out the car and dropped it onto the parking lot. But just because I was a bit careless doesn't mean I wouldn't appreciate Apple making efforts where they can to protect against it.
Accidents happen to everybody. Are you really that arrogant to suggest they never happen to you?
 
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