Apple testing iPhones with Sapphire Glass Display


One of the main reasons for iPhone warranty claims is cracked and broken screens.

With the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s, Apple addressed part of the problem by replacing the glass back casing with anodized aluminum with inlays along the top and bottom made of  ceramic glass (on the white and silver model) or pigmented glass (on the black and slate model).

Apple has also used sapphire crystal to cover the rear camera for iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s. Here’s what Apple has to say about it on iPhone 5’s design page:

Although the surface of the iSight camera is as clear as glass, it’s not made of glass. It’s actually sapphire crystal, whose hardness is second only to diamond on the scale of transparent materials. That means the surface of the lens is far less likely to scratch.

Apple seems to bigger plans for sapphire crystal as patents filed by the company suggest that future iPhones may come with displays made entirely of sapphire to improve durability.

MacRumors now reports via (Taiwan’s Apple Daily) reports that  Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn has started trial production of iPhones with sapphire glass display. The report notes that Foxconn has started a trial run for only 100 units.

The report notes that while it is a small number of devices, the production does mark a significant step in experimentation with the material on a broader scale for Apple. The report also claims that Apple’s sapphire suppliers Synopsys and Bern Optics have made significant investments in cutting machines and other equipment recently, fueling speculation that Apple is ramping up its sapphire usage. MacRumors has also heard unconfirmed word that Apple has been working with Swiss company Meyer Burger Technologies to obtain new sapphire cutting machines. Sapphire is currently used to protect the cameras on recent iPhones and the Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5s, but expanding its use to include display cover glass would necessitate a massive increase in sapphire production

Apple recently signed a deal with GT Advanced to open and operate a sapphire production facility in Mesa, Arizona. The plant is expected to boost the bottom line of materials supplier GT Advanced and will supply Apple with an unknown amount of sapphire for use in its upcoming devices.

Last year, we heard that Apple had hired a number of Vertu employees to work on the project that experimented with sapphire displays, but found them unfeasible. But the report notes that Apple is reevaluating using sapphire displays due to improvements in the material and production technologies.

Meanwhile, Corning, the company that currently manufactures Gorilla Glass used in iPhones, iPods and iPod touches, claims that Gorilla Glass 3, which was launched earlier this year, is not only less prone to shattering, but it also doesn’t scratch as easily.

It will be interesting to see if Apple launches iPhone 6 with sapphire glass display. I really hope so, as I hate using cases for my devices.

[Apple Daily via MacRumors]