A few days ago, YouTuber Marques Brownlee showed off a sheet of Sapphire crystal that he claimed would be used for the upcoming iPhone 6 with a 4.7" display. Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) move away from Corning's (NYSE:GLW) well-known Gorilla Glass to the precious stone Sapphire is a big statement and could possibly embrace a new standard for the entire industry, particularly on the high end.
The sapphire used is made from the second hardest naturally occurring substance, corundum, which is significantly stronger than Gorilla Glass. In Marques' video, he made several attempts to break and scratch the glass, and even resorted to sturdily dragging the pointy tip of a sharp blade across the surface but came to no avail.
A potential confirmation in Sapphire iPhone 6s
While it's been commonly known that Sapphire would be used for an Apple device, some people were speculating that it would be exclusive to the iWatch or 5.5" iPhone due to a limited supply. In Marques' video, he claims that the sheet of sapphire came "straight off of the assembly line" and it actually looks rather promising. In addition, The Guardian reported that Neil Alford, a professor and member of the Department of Materials at the Imperial College of London, said that the sheet could very well be legitimate due to the stress tests presented in the video. He also added that Apple must have overcome a variety of challenges in making the sheet so thin and durable.
Benefits of Sapphire
Apple is always on the lookout for the world's best ingredients to implement in its iPhones and the sapphire crystal display is no exception. Sapphire is a very high-quality material that holds a slight premium to glass and is more commonly known for its use in smaller devices such as wristwatches. Call me careless, but I own a watch with a sapphire face and have accidentally sent it to hell and back with multiple strikes to corners and other surfaces over the years, but still it is unscathed.
It isn't obvious, but compressions, scratches, and other contacts that deform glass bring it one step closer to shattering, making the glass more fragile. If the glass on a display is damaged enough from previous drops or other causes, a single minor drop on the floor could do the trick in shattering the glass. These small "errors" can be caused by simple actions such as car keys tapping or dragging against the display in your pocket. With sapphire, these blemishes are completely void due to the hardness of the material.
The sapphire crystal is made from corundum which is the second hardest naturally occurring substance, scoring a 9 out of 10 on Mohs scale of mineral hardness. This is second to diamond and is a significant lead over Gorilla Glass, which scores 6.8, a slight lag behind Quartz's, which scores a 7. Thanks to advantage in hardness, it can much more easily resist the flaws from keys or minor compressions that eventually increase the screens probability of cracking from a drop. In fact, the sapphire crystal may be so strong that the average user may never even need to worry about the screen breaking.
Apple's absolute advantage
Apple's progress and investments into sapphire will put it at an even greater absolute advantage over its competitors. Apple is already the most profitable mobile phone manufacturer with Samsung coming in second, or in this case, last since these are the only companies that profit in this industry. Sapphire is an expensive endeavor and its been rumored that the process has previously been rejected by competitors due to its expenses. With the new crystal cover, Apple will be raising the requirements of a high-end smart phone and may result to costs that are too high to keep the cash bleeding competitors completely out of the picture.
For every Gorilla Glass that cracks, a new consideration for a Apple's sapphire glass will be born. Most people aren't even aware of the capabilities of sapphire, but Apple will make it famous and is bound to benefit from it. There are going to be a lot of customers that will choose Apple due to the extreme durability of its sapphire crystal and competitors will be on their toes to figure out how to implement it into their own high-end smart phones.
This will mean no more bulky Ballistic case covers and no more sad faces, but this does not mean there will be no more glass for Corning to sell. The mobile device industry is still growing and Apple only represents a small portion of the big picture. Corning lost one customer who sells high-end devices, and the high-end is likely the only spot the glass maker will lose out on. For everyone else, like the high-growth low-cost market, there's Gorilla Glass.