When you are marketing a $600+ smartphone, you need an edge, something that makes your product stand out from the pack, and justifies to consumers why it’s worth shelling out that much more of their disposable income. At first glance, the so-called sapphire crystal display panel being reportedly incorporated into the forthcoming iPhone 6, is indeed such a edge.
Surpassed only in hardness by diamond, sapphire crystal cannot be scratched by metal, glass, sand or other materials. Also, it is quite flexible, with videos showing the material easily bent without the material shattering. All in all it seems like the perfect material to build you screen out of.
Don’t believe the hype.
Despite being very hard, and flexible, sapphire crystal is far from perfect. Firstly, sapphire crystal’s greatest strength, its hardness, also causes its greatest weakness: it is also quite brittle. It is well known that the harder a material gets, the more brittle it becomes. Take diamond, the hardest naturally occurring material on Earth; while it cannot be scratched, it can be shattered with comparative ease. When it comes to phones, this is a huge issue. While scrates on a screen are unsightly and annoying, they in no way interfere with the operation of the phone itself. Broken screens on the other hand, caused by sharp knocks, will often cause a phone to be completely written off.
Despite its fancy name, saphhire crystal is nothing to be impressed by.
In addition to the brittleness, sapphire crystal is also problematic as it is not as clear as normal glass. Unless Apple has discovered some new method for producing and fabricating this kind of display which addresses this problem, the clarity of the phones screen and the range of colours it can show will be diminished.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, sapphire crystal is highly expensive. While a standard panel of Corning Gorilla Glass in a smartphone costs less than $10, it has been estimated that the equivalent panel made out of sapphire crystal would cost something in range of 3 to 5 times this amount. It is highly likely that most major tech manufacturers decided that given the cost and the obvious shortcomings of the product itself, that this is not a necessary addition to their devices.
The iPhone 6 may indeed have other features which make it worth its inevitable high cost, but despite its fancy name, sapphire crystal is not one of them.
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