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

(View all)
Avatar
99 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)
Avatar
99 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)
Avatar
99 months ago
when the time comes, we should only worry about dropping the phone on diamonds
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
99 months ago
meh, not impressed. i crush diamonds with my nokia 3310.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
99 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)
Avatar
99 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

Apple References Unreleased 2020 16-Inch MacBook Pro in Boot Camp Update

Monday October 26, 2020 8:42 am PDT by
Last week, Apple released an update for Boot Camp, its utility for running Windows on a Mac. While this update would typically be unremarkable, several of our readers noticed that the release notes reference an unreleased 2020 model of the 16-inch MacBook Pro. While this could easily be a mistake, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is nearly a year old, so it is certainly a worthy candidate for a...

MagSafe Charger Only Charges at Full 15W Speeds With Apple's 20W Power Adapter [Updated]

Monday October 26, 2020 3:38 pm PDT by
Alongside the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro models, Apple introduced a new MagSafe charger that attaches to the magnetic ring in the back of the devices, providing up to 15W of charging power, which is double the speed of the 7.5W Qi-based wireless charging maximum. Apple does not provide a power adapter with the $39 MagSafe charger, requiring users to supply their own USB-C compatible option. Apple...

Google Reportedly Pays Apple $8-12 Billion Per Year to be Default iOS Search Engine

Sunday October 25, 2020 2:59 pm PDT by
The United States Justice Department is targeting a lucrative deal between Apple and Google as part of one of the U.S. government's largest antitrust cases, reports The New York Times. On Tuesday, the Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google, claiming the Mountain View-based company used anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and advertising markets to ...

After Mocking Apple, Samsung May Remove Power Adapter From Galaxy S21 Box

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:29 pm PDT by
Samsung's Galaxy S21, coming in 2021, may not include a power adapter or headphones in the box, according to reports from Korean media sites highlighted by SamMobile. Rumors earlier this year also said that Samsung was considering removing these accessories from future smartphone models, but that didn't stop Samsung from mocking Apple for selling the iPhone 12 models without a power adapter...

Report: Apple Silicon iMac Featuring Desktop Class 'A14T' Chip Coming First Half of 2021

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:14 am PDT by
The first iMac powered by Apple Silicon is set to arrive in the first half of next year and will feature a desktop class "A14T" chip, according to Chinese-language newspaper The China Times. Codenamed "Mt. Jade," Apple's first custom-made desktop processor will be twinned with its first self-developed GPU, codenamed "Lifuka," both of which are being produced using TSMC's 5-nanometer process, ...

iPhone 12 Six-Foot Drop Test Results: Ceramic Shield More Durable But Not Damage Proof

Monday October 26, 2020 5:00 am PDT by
Apple's new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro feature a new Ceramic Shield screen that Apple says offers 4x better drop performance. To test that claim, Allstate Protection Plans put the two models through a range of breakability tests and recorded the results. In a face down sidewalk drop test at six feet, the iPhone 12 suffered small cracks and scuffed corners and edges, leaving sharp grooves in ...

Bloomberg: New AirPods and AirPods Pro Coming in 2021, AirPods Studio Delayed, Third HomePod Model Also Possible

Monday October 26, 2020 3:34 am PDT by
Apple plans to update its AirPods line next year with two new models including third-generation AirPods and second-generation AirPods Pro, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The Cupertino, California-based technology giant is working on two new models: third-generation entry-level AirPods and the second version of the AirPods Pro earbuds, according to people familiar with the plans. ...

2020 iPad Air vs. iPad Pro: Hands-On Comparison

Tuesday October 27, 2020 3:03 pm PDT by
Apple announced the new 2020 fourth-generation iPad Air in September, but the new tablets just started shipping out to customers last Friday. We picked one up and thought we'd do a hands-on comparison with the iPad Pro, which was last updated in March, because both tablets are about as powerful and share many similarities. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Design and ...

iPhone 12 Ceramic Shield Still 'Scratches at Level 6 With Deeper Grooves at Level 7' in Mohs Hardness Test

Wednesday October 28, 2020 7:10 am PDT by
iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models feature a new Ceramic Shield front cover that is "tougher than any smartphone glass," according to Apple, but the displays on the devices still have similar scratch resistance as previous iPhones based on a new test. Zack Nelson today shared his much-anticipated iPhone 12 Pro durability test on his YouTube channel JerryRigEverything, and based on the Mohs...

Apple Files Mystery 'Personal Computer' With Placeholder 'B2002' Name in Bluetooth Product Database

Tuesday October 27, 2020 12:36 pm PDT by
Last week, a listing appeared in the Bluetooth product database for an Apple product with a placeholder name "B2002" and a model number of "TBD." MacRumors was alerted to the listing by health and fitness tech website MyHealthyApple. The product is filed under the "personal computer" category, which Apple has used for previous Mac and iPad listings in the database, so it is hard to pinpoint...