The Apple iPhone 6 (or whatever Apple calls it) is mere months away and the anticipation of it is through the roof. The new phone is likely to offer a larger screen, improved display, faster processor, and more. However, the iPhone 6 will probably have one feature that is likely to be a game changer for Apple's competitive positioning in the smartphone market.

What's that iPhone 6 front panel cover made of again? 
There was recently a leak of what is purported to be the iPhone 6's front panel cover. YouTube star, Marques Brownlee got ahold of this panel and after his attempts to break/scratch in various ways failed, many began to speculate that this panel was made of sapphire as Apple's supply agreement with GT Advanced Technologies would suggest.

However, Brownlee did a follow-up video in which he explained a concept that is known as the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. This is a 1-10 scale that gives a relative ordering of the scratch resistance of a number of minerals. In a nutshell, if a mineral has some hardness X, then it can scratch any mineral with a value of less than X, but cannot scratch anything with a value greater than X (minerals of equal hardness can scratch each other, but it's difficult).

Then, during the video, Brownlee went ahead and tested the alleged iPhone 6 display cover against garnet (a 7 on the Mohs scale) as well as emery (an 8 on the Mohs scale). Both the iPhone 5s and the alleged iPhone 6 covers were scratched by both materials, but the latter suffered far less damage than the former. 

Given that sapphire sits at about a 9 on the Mohs scale, Brownlee concluded that the iPhone 6 panel isn't made of pure sapphire, but could be– as some have speculated – a sapphire-based hybrid material.

Shocking? Only to the bears.
Over the last several years, Apple's research & development spending has continued to climb higher as the company invests in the development of new products and technologies. 

AAPL Research and Development Expense (Annual) Chart

AAPL Research and Development Expense (Annual) data by YCharts

In light of this dramatically increased spending (R&D was actually up 36% year over year in the most recent quarter), it's clear that Apple's engineering teams have been busy. The smartphone market -- Apple's bread and butter -- is becoming increasingly crowded, so it's going to take some pretty serious innovations to keep average selling prices/gross margins high. 

The good news is that Apple's R&D spending is large, growing, and efficient. This means that investors really can look forward to innovations from Apple over the next five years that dwarf what it was able to bring us over the past five years. 

Who was it that said Apple wasn't innovative, again? 

Ashraf Eassa has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.