Apple Watch Sport's Display With Ion-X Glass Outperforms Sapphire Models in Bright Lighting

Although there has been much comparison of the scratch-resistance and weight differences between the two Apple Watch display cover options -- sapphire crystal and Ion-X glass -- not much has been scientifically tested regarding each model's reflectiveness. A new report by DisplayMate out today, however, shows just how much lower reflectivity and higher contrast there is on the Apple Watch Sport's Ion-X glass compared to the higher-end Apple Watch models with sapphire.

As DisplayMate points out, the two models have identical OLED displays internally, but thanks to the different outer coverings, the different models react uniquely in bright light situations. In summary, the site found that the Apple Watch with sapphire crystal display reflects 74 percent more ambient light than the Ion-X glass of the Sport model. The two displays behave almost identically in dark environments given the low levels of ambient light available for reflection.

DisplayMate_Photo_28_800

Photo comparing Ion-X glass (left) and sapphire crystal (right) taken at 2,000 lux, which equates to moderate outdoor lighting

For the Apple Watch Sport with Ion-X Glass we measured the Screen Reflectance to be 4.7 percent, while for the Apple Watch with Sapphire we measured 8.2 percent Screen Reflectance, which is 74 percent higher than with Glass. Both values are about 0.6 percent higher than just pure sapphire and glass alone, indicating that Apple has done an excellent job in optically bonding both the glass and sapphire to the OLED display without an air gap.

The 74 percent higher Reflectance of the Apple Watch with Sapphire means that its screen will reflect almost twice as much surrounding ambient light as the Apple Watch Sport with Glass. And it takes surprisingly little ambient light for that to make a significant visible difference…

Starting in the dark at 0 lux, DisplayMate increased light levels in successive stages of testing to discover the contrast ratios of each screen under increasingly stressful lighting situations. With both displays set to their maximum brightness, at 500 lux ("mid-range indoor ambient lighting") the display contrast ratios had fallen from 100 to 64 for Ion-X and 38 for sapphire, illustrating the distinct visibility advantage for the cheaper model. Jumping to 2,000 lux ("moderate outdoor lighting in the shade or an overcast sky"), the ratios drop to 17 and 10 for Ion-X glass and sapphire, respectively.

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 11.16.08 AM

Chart comparing various aspects of reflectivity between the two displays

For a full-on sunlight measurement of 10,000 lux, the Ion-X glass display contrast ratio fell to 3 while the Sapphire Crystal came in at just 2. So, while the Sport's display proves to handle moderate outdoor sunlight much better than the sapphire display, both are significantly impacted by harsh, direct sunlight.

Higher reflectivity and lower light transmittance were highlighted as challenges for Apple amid Apple's failed partnership with GT Advanced Technologies for sapphire production and rumors the iPhone 6 would include a sapphire display cover. Recent advancements in sapphire production technology may, however, overcome those difficulties, with future generations of products able to use sapphire that has better viewing characteristics than glass while retaining sapphire's advantages of high scratch resistance.

Related Roundup: Apple Watch Series 6
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
70 months ago
Let the whining BEGIN!
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
70 months ago
The clarity from the lack of reflection will be negated by all them scratches! :p
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
70 months ago
WORKAROUND: Don't aim watch face at the sun.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
70 months ago
My Apple Watch Edition has the same problem in bright sunlight. It's annoying, but overall I value the social status I acquired with my purchase more than worrying about trying to use it.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
70 months ago
IF I were considering purchasing and Apple Watch, I'd naturally go for the Sport model… but only based on it's lower price point. (The better on-screen contrast with the Ion-X glass is an added bonus.)
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
70 months ago

My Apple Watch Edition has the same problem in bright sunlight. It's annoying, but overall I value the social status I acquired with my purchase more than worrying about trying to use it.

lol
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

First Impressions From New iPhone 12 and 12 Pro Owners

Thursday October 22, 2020 4:20 pm PDT by
It's already Friday, October 23, in Australia and New Zealand, which means some customers who purchased an iPhone 12 or 12 Pro already have their new devices in hand. We've seen dozens of reviews of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro from media sites, but now first impressions from regular Apple customers are available. Image via MacRumors reader Boardiesboi New iPhone 12 and 12 Pro owners are...

Early iPhone 12 Tests Show Ceramic Shield is Stronger and More Scratch Resistant Than iPhone 11 Glass

Friday October 23, 2020 1:21 pm PDT by
Apple's new iPhone 12 models are protected by a Ceramic Shield cover glass that has nano-ceramic crystals infused right into the glass to improve durability. According to Apple, Ceramic Shield offers four times better drop protection than the glass used for the iPhone 11 models. YouTube channel MobileReviewsEh conducted some tests on the iPhone 12 using a force meter to compare its performance ...

Apple Distributing New Heated Display Removal Machine for iPhone 12 Repairs

Thursday October 22, 2020 6:20 pm PDT by
Apple is providing Genius Bars and Apple Authorized Service Providers with a new heated display removal fixture for iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro repairs, according to information obtained by MacRumors from a reliable source. To open iPhone 12 models, technicians will be required to slide the device into a specialized tray, and then place the tray into the high-temperature fixture for two...

Apple VP Kaiann Drance Interview Addresses Battery Life, MagSafe, and Power Adapter Concerns

Friday October 23, 2020 3:37 am PDT by
Apple's Vice President of iPhone Marketing, Kaiann Drance, has provided a new interview to Rich DeMuro on the Rich on Tech Podcast, to discuss the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro. Although much of the interview repeated points from Apple's "Hi, Speed" event, there were a number of interesting tidbits regarding the affect of 5G on battery life, MagSafe concerns, and the lack of a power adapter in...

Teardown Video Confirms iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro Use Same 2,815mAh Battery

Thursday October 22, 2020 9:47 am PDT by
With the iPhone 12 launching on Friday and in just a few hours to Australia and New Zealand, hands-on videos, teardowns, reviews, and other iPhone-related content has been coming out. A new teardown video delves into both the iPhone 12 and the 12 Pro, confirming battery life for both models and giving us a closer look at their internals. The video from Io Technology is in Chinese, but ...

Images of Supposed AirPods Diagnosis Tool Shared Online

Thursday October 22, 2020 5:24 am PDT by
Apple is reportedly rolling out a new tool to Apple service providers for testing AirPods, according to leaker known as "Fudge," who shared images of the tool on Twitter. Apple appears to be seeking to reduce unnecessary AirPods services by more accurately diagnosing the cause of a fault. Instances of a dirt-blockage, which may be difficult to ascertain visually, can apparently be...

New Photos Offer Better Look at iPhone 12 Color Options

Tuesday October 20, 2020 2:34 am PDT by
As we wait for the iPhone 12 review embargo to lift later today, more pictures are circulating of the devices in real-world lighting conditions, providing a better look at the different colors available. Leaker DuanRui has shared images on Twitter of the iPhone 12 in white, black, blue, green, and (PRODUCT)RED. The black and white colors are similar to the iPhone 11 colors, but the other...

Apple's AirTags Revealed in Newly Published Patent Applications

Thursday October 22, 2020 9:13 am PDT by
Two patent applications filed by Apple appear to depict the company's widely expected AirTags item trackers (via Patently Apple). The filings, which include a large number of images, are titled "Mounting Base for a Wirelessly Locatable Tag" and "Fastener with a Constrained Retention Ring," and describe a wirelessly locatable tag that can be used to determine the absolute location of an...

iPhone 11 Pro Outlasts iPhone 12 and 12 Pro in Extensive Battery Life Test

Friday October 23, 2020 8:36 am PDT by
Arun Maini today shared a new side-by-side iPhone battery life video test on his YouTube channel Mrwhosetheboss, timing how long the new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models last on a single charge compared to older models, with equal brightness, settings, battery health, and usage. All of the devices are running iOS 14 without a SIM card inserted. In the test, the iPhone 11 Pro outlasted both ...

Apple Warns MagSafe Charger Can Leave Circular Imprints on Leather Cases

Friday October 23, 2020 3:23 pm PDT by
If you keep your iPhone in a leather case while charging with Apple's new MagSafe Charger, the case might show circular imprints from contact with the accessory, according to a new Apple support document published today. Apple's leather cases for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are not available until November 6, but a MacRumors reader has already shared a photo of a circular imprint on...