Smartphone Manufacturers 'Lukewarm' on Sapphire, Call Material Impractical Due to Cost and Supply

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Jul 11, 2014.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Rumors have suggested that Apple is using the sapphire garnered from its partnership with GT Advanced to produce sapphire crystal displays for the iPhone 6, and if true, such a move would normally inspire competitors to produce their own devices with sapphire displays.

    It does not appear, however, that other major smartphone manufacturers are ready to adopt sapphire as a display solution, due to the expense of the material and its quality compared to the more popular Gorilla Glass.

    Engadget, in an in-depth piece on sapphire displays, contacted multiple representatives from major smartphone companies, who had researched sapphire as a possible material and largely decided against it. LG, for example, said the material was too expensive.
    Sapphire is astronomically expensive compared to alternatives like Gorilla Glass, with a pane costing $30 compared to $3. Apple's partnership with GT Advanced has allowed Apple to help fund advanced sapphire production methods that significantly lower manufacturing costs, however, a feat that most manufacturers will be unable to match.

    A look at how GT Advanced produces sapphire
    Sapphire is an appealing option due to its extreme hardness and its scratch resistance. Rated at a nine on the Mohs hardness scale, few materials aside from diamond can scratch sapphire, but as one representative pointed out, sapphire is highly brittle. "The sapphire is too hard to withstand bending. It's easier to break during drop tests when the size of sapphire increases."

    Gorilla Glass manufacturer Corning has heavily criticized sapphire for the same reason, noting that its own product can withstand 2.5 times more pressure. Corning has also pointed out that Gorilla Glass is cheaper, far lighter, and more environmentally friendly as it takes less energy to produce. Sapphire also transmits less light, making it both dimmer and less clear unless specially treated.

    Strength test conducted by Corning, showing sapphire shattering at 161 pounds while Gorilla Glass survives​

    Yet another representative suggested that sapphire simply doesn't make sense except from a marketing standpoint, which would certainly work for Apple as a way to distinguish itself as a more luxury smartphone option. Apple has always stood out from other manufacturers with its insistence on quality over price, setting it apart as a premium brand.

    Though rumors have indicated Apple is planning to use sapphire displays in its smartphones, it remains unclear if the iPhone 6 will indeed feature a sapphire screen. It is possible the company's sapphire is reserved for a different project, the iWatch, and it is also possible, based on circulating rumors, that only the larger 5.5-inch iPhone 6 will be equipped with a sapphire display.

    Either way, it's likely we will get our first glimpse of an Apple product that utilizes sapphire crystal later this year and as Engadget points out, it is likely that manufacturers will take advantage of sapphire for products like smart watches, later transitioning to larger products as supply techniques and production improve.

    Article Link: Smartphone Manufacturers 'Lukewarm' on Sapphire, Call Material Impractical Due to Cost and Supply
  2. bpeeps macrumors 68020


    May 6, 2011
    Well maybe the price of the phone will actually be somewhat worth it with the expense of sapphire.
  3. penajmz macrumors 68030


    Sep 11, 2008
    New York City
    This is why Apple is and will always be ahead.
  4. drewu macrumors member

    May 1, 2011
    Just my 2 pennies: But I am far more likely to drop the phone, than put 161lbs on it.

    I think (for me at least) it comes down to which performs better for accidental drops and scratch resistance. Which is a bit of catch 22, as the Gorilla Glass is better for drops, and sapphire is better for scratches :/
  5. SilianRail macrumors 6502

    Feb 24, 2011
    The iPhone + 2 year contract is going to run you around $2,000. The $27 screen premium represents an infinitesimal 1.4% price increase. There are a lot more than 1.4% of iPhones being used with a cracked screen.
  6. usarioclave macrumors 65816

    Sep 26, 2003
    How does the "sapphire is brittle" comments fit with that ultra-bendy screen? Either that isn't sapphire, or Apple found a way to make it flexible and clear?
  7. El Hikaru macrumors regular

    Dec 3, 2013
    When Steve introduced SSD, he was to charge $999 for like 60+GB. Now, SSD is everywhere.
    I think my toilet window glass will be replaced with a sapphire sheet sometime in the future.
    Sometime in the future.
    I like the picture of the sapphire factory because it reminds me Breaking Bad.
  8. LordVic macrumors 601

    Sep 7, 2011
    Because they use technologies that are more expensive for marketing, sales and "image" rather than what is actually best for the consumer and the device?

    Unless GT AT and Apple have some secret manufacturing technique they're not sharing with anyone else in the world, the concerns that people are raising against sapphire screen for the iphone aren't unjust.
  9. jclo Editor


    Staff Member

    Dec 7, 2012
    Exactly. There's a good possibility that the front panel seen in videos isn't sapphire, or that Apple has a special manufacturing technique.
  10. phillipduran macrumors 65816


    Apr 30, 2008
    This is what I'm thinking. I hope Apple opened a can of innovation onto the sapphire screen industry. It will be interesting to watch the new iPhone announcement when it comes.
  11. newyorksole macrumors 68030

    Apr 2, 2008
    New York.
    AKA Apple has a stranglehold on the competition . They want to use sapphire, but they'll act like they don't .
  12. LordVic macrumors 601

    Sep 7, 2011
    Yes. One of the two.
    there's no confirmation yet at all that the screen on the iPhone 6 is going to be sapphire. Thats a lot of speculation at this point.
  13. axonic labs macrumors member

    axonic labs

    Feb 28, 2007
    Who cares what smartphone manufacturers want, doesn't it ultimately depend in what consumers want?
  14. \-V-/ Suspended


    May 3, 2012
    Yeah... that didn't make much sense. They call it "brittle" and yet, in the comparison, it's only a 20% difference in durability. 161 pounds of bendy-ness doesn't seem particularly "brittle" to me. The comparison was also done on a hypothetical screen in which they have no clue how it will be manufactured/implemented. We don't even know if the next iPhone will even have sapphire displays.

    Just sounds like sour grapes to me, which... from previous observation... does nothing to Apple.
  15. mabhatter macrumors 6502a

    Jan 3, 2009
    It would seen sapphire is better for an iWatch. It's strapped to your wrist where you get lots of wear, but you're not really going to drop it often. It would be easy to form the watch size pieces right out of the oven making them very durable.

    Whatever Apple is going to do, it will be huge, bigger than anybody else has in the works.
  16. critter13 macrumors 6502

    Aug 23, 2010
    if the biggest argument against is cost then obviously it will be welcomed upgrade. apple is notorious for not cutting into margins and with the GT partnership they must have been able to alleviate the cost concerns.

    drops that cause cracks and shattering are where the improvements needs to come. my iPhone 4s has taken quite a beating but the display has never scratched. replaced the front glass twice from drops though.
  17. hansonjohn590 macrumors 6502

    Sep 14, 2013
    Then why would I want it on a bigger iPhone?
  18. Stephen123 macrumors regular

    Sep 3, 2007
    Based on the leaked videos of iPhone 6 screens, this whole article is quite out of date. It looks like Apple is doing a super thin (thin enough to be flexible) layer of sapphire on top of a sheet of flexible glass. Based on the videos they’ve solved the brittle issue and the clear issue, and have a scratch proof, impact resistant surface. We don’t yet know about price. And apparently running over the sheet with a car is bad but hitting it with a hammer is OK, which implies something to do with total pressure and surface tension.
  19. macjonny1 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 10, 2006
    Breaking news: Manufacturers of less expensive phones want their products to remain less expensive.

    best advantage of sapphire glass is scratch resistance.

    Apple should continue to manufacture high quality phones with superior materials.
  20. 1Zach1 macrumors 65816


    Feb 8, 2008
    Northern Va
    I have no dog in this fight but I'd have a hard time blindly believing the results Corning has with GG vs Sapphire, as they have a vested interest in the results.
  21. Swift macrumors 65816


    Feb 18, 2003
    Los Angeles
    Gee how surprising

    A new type of glass? Well, then, Corning's going to say this is no good. The other manufacturers won't have this so it must be bad. And of course, this is a patented process from the company they bought. So have fun.
  22. TWSS37 macrumors 65816

    Feb 4, 2011
    hahahahahahahahahahahahhaha +1
  23. LordVic macrumors 601

    Sep 7, 2011
    most current uses of Sapphire aren't even as big as a cell phone.

    The current gen of phones basically only uses it for the lense of the camera and the touchID on the 5s.

    Watches tend to be the biggest consumer product using Sapphire glass, and most watches aren't much bigger than 1-2" diamater of the face.

    We're talknig about moving here to 4-6" worth of glass, while being only a few Milimeters thin
  24. critter13 macrumors 6502

    Aug 23, 2010
    also there are many forms of sapphire and many treatments for it that alter the properties. just like glass. all those claims are with materials that are not exact to what will be on the iPhone. I have a hard time believing that apple spend the money to invest in sapphire if it wasn't a sure upgrade.
  25. afsnyder macrumors 65816

    Jan 7, 2014
    and then you have the video from the other day where he bends the crap out of the sapphire panel and nothing bad happens... so Apple has indeed fixed the issues with sapphire displays..

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