Apple, Inc.'s iPhone 6 Display: Nearly Indestructible?

The speculation is building. Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) upcoming iPhone 6 almost certainly looks poised to sport this wild new technology. With the company's newly forged partnership with sapphire crystal maker GT Advanced Technologies (NASDAQOTH: GTATQ  ) it's rumored that Apple is readying new devices that will sport sapphire crystal displays -- particularly the iPhone 6. As the typical fall launch timeframe for Apple's next-generation iPhone lineup approaches, a few videos have surfaced showing the impressive capabilities of the material. Could Apple's iPhone 6 display be nearly indestructible?

iPhone 6 concept. Design by Tomas Moyano and Nicolas Aichino.

Indestructible sapphire?
On the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, pure sapphire comes in at an impressive 9, making it "the second hardest naturally occurring material on Earth," according to YouTube tech reviewer Marques Brownlee. 

This sort of hardness enables sapphire to hold up against considerable efforts to damage it. One of the few phones confirmed to use a sapphire crystal display is the upcoming Kyocera smartphone. On YouTube, Koycera shows just how indestructible its "Sapphire Shield" is by comparing it to "impact-resistant glass" using a rock and a drop test. While the sapphire display holds up perfectly to attempts to scratch and destroy the glass, the impact-resistant glass fails both tests.

But while Apple's iPhone 6 display may be made from sapphire, it is more likely to be some form of a sapphire hybrid. A new video released yesterday on YouTube by Brownlee shows an alleged iPhone 6 display get scratched by sandpapers made with materials rated at hardness levels below sapphire's 9 rating. But the Touch ID home button used in the iPhone 5s, which Apple has confirmed uses sapphire, did not show any scratches from the sandpapers.

The alleged iPhone 6 display, however, did hold up considerably better to the sandpapers than the iPhone 5s. Brownlee suggests the iPhone 6 could use sapphire in its display but may not be pure sapphire. This would be in line with a patent filed by Apple last year of a hybrid sapphire-coated display, MacRumors notes. 

While a hybrid sapphire display may show less resistance to scratching than pure sapphire, there are advantages for Apple in using a hybrid as opposed to the pure sapphire display. As Brownlee showed in a previous video, the hybrid resisted every attempt to break the display by bending. And a pure sapphire cover, on the other hand, probably couldn't withstand this sort of bending. There's also a good chance the hybrid is more resistant to drop tests than sapphire.

A better material and key competitive advantage
If this really is the display for the iPhone 6, Apple has produced a winner. While the glass is subject to scratches from extremely hard materials, none of these materials are used in the hard items we carry in our pockets such as keys and knifes. Combining the display's resistance to scratches and bending, the display is nearly indestructible when it comes to everyday use.

Reports about whether Apple will use it across its entire iPhone 6 lineup are still mixed. Recently, speculation has turned form whether it will be used in the 4.7-inch or the phablet-like 5.5-inch iPhone 6, to a new report from NPD DisplaySearch asserting that the display will only be used in either the 64 GB version of the larger or smaller version, and not in the 32 GB versions of either screen size. NPD says this is due to the sapphire crystal display's high cost and possibly because of supply limitations with the glass also being used in Apple's rumored iWatch.

iWatch concept design by SET Solution. Image used with permission. Watch a video of this concept here.

Obviously investors would want to see this seemingly superior material used in as much of Apple's upcoming product line as possible. On the other hand, having it only in premium versions of Apple's next-generation iPhone lineup and the new iWatch product could serve as a way to upsell iPhone buyers and compel Apple users to give the iWatch a shot.

Best of all, as Fool senior technology specialist Evan Niu recently explained, it's not going to be easy for competitors to imitate this impressive feat Apple seems to have achieved with sapphire covers. In an increasingly competitive smartphone market, Apple's sapphire display could be the differentiating factor Apple needs to stand out with the iPhone 6.

This small company may win big on Apple's next big product launch
Apple's so-called iWatch will almost undoubtedly shake up an entire industry. But one small company may benefit from the likely enormous adoption of these smart wearable devices more than Apple. Even better, its small stock price has nearly unlimited room to run for early in-the-know investors. To be one of them, just click here!

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 11:26 AM, AceOfSaves wrote:

    "none of these materials are used in the hard items we carry in our pockets such as keys and knifes"

    I don't know about you but I don't carry knives in my pocket. :)

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2014, at 12:32 PM, TMFDanielSparks wrote:

    Haha! Pocket knife I mean :)

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2014, at 9:31 AM, twolf2919 wrote:

    "Brownlee suggests the iPhone 6 could use sapphire in its display but may not be pure sapphire. This would be in line with a patent filed by Apple last year of a hybrid sapphire-coated display, MacRumors notes" - sorry, but Brownlee appeared to not have read and/or understood the patent Apple filed. That patent was for *bonding* a sapphire layer with other materials. It's not for some "hybrid" concoction that creates a material softer than sapphire but stronger than other materials!

    If Apple used this "bonding" technique in order to make the cover less shatter-prone, it raises the interesting question of what Brownlee would have found if he had simply turned over the cover he had and tried his scratch test on it! Perhaps his scratch test was done on the softer/flexibly side rather than the sapphire side!

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2014, at 11:10 PM, drannor68 wrote:

    Ya but what can get in a pocket is pocket change, and also sand. Sand especially if you're at the beach or recently returned from the beach. Something like this would eliminate any possibility of damage.

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