Future Smartphone Displays May Use Sapphire Instead of Glass

iphone_5_camera_sapphireWhile 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.

Top Rated Comments

AQUADock Avatar
109 months ago
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?
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Bubba Satori Avatar
109 months ago
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.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
needfx Avatar
109 months ago
when the time comes, we should only worry about dropping the phone on diamonds
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
LorPGDL Avatar
109 months ago
meh, not impressed. i crush diamonds with my nokia 3310.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
daneoni Avatar
109 months ago
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.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
fruitpunch.ben Avatar
109 months ago
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?
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

REC ASA CODE2016 20160601 205816 2745

Elon Musk Reportedly Demanded to Become Apple CEO as Part of Potential Tesla Acquisition [Update: Musk Denies]

Friday July 30, 2021 9:04 am PDT by
Tesla CEO Elon Musk reportedly once demanded that he be made Apple CEO in a brief discussion of a potential acquisition with Apple's current CEO, Tim Cook. The claim comes in a new book titled "Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century," as reviewed by The Los Angeles Times. According to the book, during a 2016 phone call between Musk and Cook that touched on the possibility of ...
General Apps Messages

Android iMessage Competitor Puts Pressure on Apple

Friday July 30, 2021 3:15 am PDT by
Google and the three major U.S. carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, will all support a new communications protocol on Android smartphones starting in 2022, a move that puts pressure on Apple to adopt a new cross-platform messaging standard and may present a challenge to iMessage. Verizon recently announced that it is planning to adopt Messages by Google as its default messaging...
Apple watch series 5 new case material made of titanium 091019

Titanium Apple Watch Series 6 Models Currently Widely Unavailable

Sunday August 1, 2021 6:21 am PDT by
Models of the Apple Watch Series 6 with titanium cases part of the "Apple Watch Edition" collection is currently widely unavailable for pick-up in several of Apple's retail stores in the United States and is unavailable entirely for delivery in major markets. Noted by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman in the latest edition of his "Power On" newsletter, titanium models of the Apple Watch Series 6,...
ifixit iphone12 mini

Apple to Make Space for Larger Batteries in iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks By Adopting Slimmer Peripheral Chips

Monday August 2, 2021 2:12 am PDT by
For future iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks, Apple plans to use smaller internal components in an effort to increase the size of the device's battery, according to DigiTimes. Image Credit: iFixit Specifically, Apple plans to "significantly increase the adoption" of IPDs or integrated passive devices for the peripheral chips in its products. These news chips will be slimmer in size and allow for...
Flat 2021 MacBook Pro Mockup Feature

Unreleased Apple Macs and Apple Watches Listed in Eurasian Database Ahead of Fall Product Launches

Monday August 2, 2021 9:34 am PDT by
Apple is preparing for a slew of fall product launches according to new filings that showed up today in the Eurasian Economic Commission database. There are listings for new Mac and Apple Watch models, all of which have previously unknown model identifiers that indicate that they're upcoming devices. There are six new Apple Watch identifiers, including A2473, A2474, A2475, A2476, A2477, and...
a15 chip

iPhone 13 and Redesigned MacBook Pro Chip Production Hit With Gas Contamination

Friday July 30, 2021 5:44 am PDT by
The most important TSMC factory that manufactures Apple's chips destined for next-generation iPhone and Mac models has been hit by a gas contamination, according to Nikkei Asia. The factory, known as "Fab 18," is TSMC's most advanced chipmaking facility. TSMC is Apple's sole chip supplier, making all of the processors used in every Apple device with a custom silicon chip. Industry...
iPhone 13 Wi Fi 6E feature update

Wi-Fi 6E Explained: What It Could Mean for iPhone 13 and Beyond

Monday August 2, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
The iPhone 13 is widely expected to come with Wi-Fi 6E capabilities, and while it may seem rather nuanced to the average consumer, with only improved speeds and being "up to date" in the realm of Wi-Fi technology, it's actually a fairly significant improvement, laying the groundwork for much of what we know the future holds. To truly understand Wi-Fi 6E, MacRumors sat down for an exclusive...
youtube premium lite

YouTube Tests Cheaper 'Premium Lite' Subscription for Ad-Free Viewing

Monday August 2, 2021 3:22 am PDT by
YouTube is piloting a new cheaper subscription tier in Europe called "Premium Lite," which offers ad-free viewing minus YouTube Premium's other features. First spotted by a user on ResetEra and subsequently confirmed by Google, the "Lite" plan means users who aren't interested in offline downloads or background playback can still enjoy YouTube videos on web and mobile app without being...
iPhone 13 Always On Feature

iPhone 13 to Bring Over a Major Feature From the Apple Watch

Wednesday July 28, 2021 2:21 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming iPhone 13 lineup will feature an always-on display akin to the Apple Watch Series 5 and Series 6, according to recent reports. In his weekly Power On newsletter, Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman, who often reveals accurate insights into Apple's plans, said that the iPhone 13 may feature an Apple Watch-inspired always-on mode. The Apple Watch Series 5 and Apple Watch...
COVID19 Digital Wallet Apple Wallet

Australian Government Now Offering COVID-19 Digital Vaccination Certificates for Apple Wallet

Monday August 2, 2021 12:04 am PDT by
The Australian government has introduced support for adding COVID-19 vaccination digital certificates to Apple Wallet via the Express Plus Medicare app on iOS. Image credit: Tap Down Under As spotted by Tap Down Under, users who have received two doses of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine now have access to the digital certificate through their Medicare online account or via the Medica...