Sapphire glass is also supposed to be virtually indestructible. When so much of your business comes from replacing broken LCD screens, those rumors understandably make you nervous.
Historically, about 90% of pre-launch rumors about iPhones have turned out to be false (or far from actuality) but with Apple’s investment of $578 million dollars into GT Advanced Technologies and the YouTube videos showing supposedly leaked sapphire glass screens, these rumors seem like they could be credible.
Hopefully, you haven’t lost much sleep over the issue and we’ll explain why a sapphire iPhone screen won’t be coming to the iPhone 6 or any of it’s successors in the near future.
Sapphire iPhone Screen Rumors
At the end of 2013 Apple invested $578 million dollars into GT Advanced Technologies for the purpose of acquiring sapphire glass. It only makes sense that they would use it on the next iPhone right? Why else would they make that investment?
Then came the infamous YouTube video (6.5 million views and counting) where Marques Brownlee claimed to have been sent a sapphire glass screen “directly from the assembly line” from a reliable source.
While that is a great publicity stunt for the creator of the video, his claim seems questionable at best. My initial thoughts are that this “leaked part” is no more than a tempered glass screen protector from a Chinese manufacturer who’s creating a prototype to prepare for the iPhone 6’s release.
What’s he trying to hide? – Possibly a 3rd party logo that would deny his claim of coming directly off Apple’s assembly line.
And then I went on to basically stab the thing, pretty hard right in the middle and drag the point of the knife around the surface with some serious pressure….and I got no results [scratches]
I commented on his YouTube video questioning what appears to be a screen protector and requesting an explanation. While the comment did receive many thumbs-up, Mr. Brownlee did not respond back.
My gut feeling indicates only one reasonable explanation….
Top 5 reasons Apple won’t be using Sapphire Glass
With the rumors aside, some good ol’ fashion research and common sense give way to Apple’s real intention of using sapphire glass.
Thin Sapphire Glass Isn’t Strong
Sapphire glass is currently used in the following high end devices:
- high end watches
- barcode sensors
- aviation displays in airplane cockpits
- optic heads of missiles
The thickness of the glass in all these applications is what gives sapphire glass its durability and reputation of strength. When manufactured at the same size and thickness as an iPhone screen, sapphire glass doesn’t hold up as well as the existing Gorilla Glass used on current iPhone, iPad and iPod products. While it might be more scratch resistant, it’s certainly not less breakable.
The video below demonstrates this clearly…
It’s Too Heavy.
At the same thickness as Gorilla Glass, sapphire glass is 60% heavier. For a company that seems to be constantly trying to make its devices lighter (iPad Air and MacBook Air anyone?) it doesn’t make sense for them to use a material that would make the phone significantly heavier. And, as I said above, to live up to its reputation of invincibility, the sapphire glass would need to be even thicker, adding more weight to the device.
It’s Too Expensive.
Sapphire glass is very expensive to manufacture. Since it uses sapphires as a key component, these crystals must either be mined or grown in a lab. Either option is time consuming and costly. Additionally, machining the glass to create the parts for a sapphire glass iPhone screen would be much more expensive because of the mineral composition.
Estimates put Sapphire glass cost at 10X the current cost of Corning Gorilla Glass used in today’s Apple products.
The thought of passing this cost back to the consumer on devices already priced at a premium would make Google, Samsung, Moto and the rest of the pack very happy.
Glare and Touch Sensitivity
Today’s mobile phone LCD screens have superior sensitivity to the human touch and stylus pens. These advancements are a result of improved digitizer technology and thinner glass. R&D is still needed to ensure touch sensitivity keeps up with today’s technology and future consumer needs.
Sapphire’s surface isn’t as precious as current Gorilla Glass which would cause issues with brighter images.
Simply put, durability isn’t the only demand consumers have and sapphire doesn’t seem to address all of those needs.
And Most Importantly – It would be TERRIBLE for Apple’s business model!
Creating a virtually indestructible phone would be detrimental to Apple’s eco-system.
Jim Cramer would have a field day with this one!
Apple profits when consumers crack their iPhone screen
- About 25% of consumers have a cracked screen, which doesn’t include the number of people who’ve already had their device fixed.
- 33% don’t plan on ever getting their iPhone fixed, choosing instead to wait until they’re eligible for an upgrade to the newest iPhone.
iPhones lifespan would increase and negatively impact Apple’s revenue and overall device sales worldwide – in a big way. So much so, that Apple would redefine the phrase “Shooting yourself in the foot”!
Third Party Vendors Would Be Livid
Apple is moving towards a closed loop eco-system, eliminating as many third-parties as possible to profit from A-Z. In the last year they’ve introduced in-store repairs, started a buyback program, and have the ability to sell carrier branded phones directly from their website and retail stores. None of which were possible less than two years ago.In addition, Apple has moved to expand carrier branded phones to other countries, reducing their dependence on US Post-Paid carriers to sell their products.
However, they still largely depend on 3rd party retailers to sell their product, which in turn offer many other products and services surrounding Apple products.
Businesses likely to be shaken up
- Domestic post-paid carriers (activation spiffs)
- Insurance / Warranty Programs (Assurion, Geeksquad, Square Trade)
- Accessory manufacturers (Cases and screen protectors)
- and their own AppleCare+ protection plan
Is Apple really ready to bite the hand(s) that feed them (and still depend on)? Definitely not yet!
Where WILL Apple use Sapphire Glass?
With all the talk related to sapphire glass on the iPhone 6, it’s most reasonable to think Apple’s looking to use it for its most common use in consumers’ daily lives – wearable’s, including watches for the iWatch line and whatever future products Apple might have to compete with the Google Glass line.
The most Apple might ever do with the iPhone is include some Sapphire hybrid laminate for scratches but would never be “unbreakable”.
Jeffrey W. Evenson, senior VP of Cornin (Gorilla Glass) summed up the discussion saying:
Discussion seems to center around sapphire as an obvious solution for a cover material. What would people say if someone invented a cover that was about half the weight, used 99 percent less energy to make, provided brighter displays, and cost less than a tenth of sapphire? I think they’d say that sapphire was in real trouble. It so happens that we at Corning already invented that cover – and it’s called Gorilla Glass.
Sapphire glass on the iPhone?
It’s just not going to happen!
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