Is sapphire glass all it’s cracked up to be?

September 1, 2014

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With IFA 2014 set to start in a few days in Berlin, one of the buzzwords being bandied about is sapphire glass, particularly because it is rumored to be one of the features of the anticipated iPhone 6. Another OEM has beaten Apple to the punch as Kyocera recently announced the availability of its Brigadier with Sapphire Display through carrier Verizon. But as a supposedly scratch and drop resistant material, is sapphire glass all it’s, well, cracked up to be?

uBreakiFix, a tech repair company, released a video showing the results on tests that they conducted on sapphire glass, as compared to the Gorilla Glass, which is used by several devices from Motorola, ASUS, Samsung and Amazon. They did three “torture” tests to compare the two: a scratch resistance test using a tungsten drill bit, an impact test, and a four-point bend stress test. When it comes to being scratch resistant, sapphire glass more than impresses as it is indeed a good material to keep your device scratch free, since after all, it is ranked in the mohs hardness spectrum.

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But while it is indeed harder than most of the smartphone glass materials used by OEMs, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will result in an unbreakable device. As the result of the other two tests showed, sapphire glass is brittle and so it is unable to bend and absorb the impact when dropped or stressed. Its failure strength is 25% higher than gorilla glass, but that’s not what will make it effective and may present a problem for engineers. How sapphire can make a gadget better is “clever engineering and protective features”, which may be something Apple has managed to overcome.

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Kyocera, which has made a name for itself for smartphones that can survive rough terrain, released two videos showing off how the sapphire glass has made the Brigadier tougher than any of their previous products. Discovery Channel superstar Bear Grylls starred in one of the videos, putting the phone through various real-life tests while the other video put the phone through the ringer and it emerged virtually unscathed.

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  • James Burkett

    In the pictures of the iPhone 6,, there is no raised ridge around the glass to protect it in a fall. That means instead-cracked screen when it’s dropped, just like the glass in the drop test with sapphire glass from three feet with no ridge to protect it. On with the cases to cover that ugly phone

    • tiger

      You mean like Nexus 5?! The one that cracked from dropping 3 ft onto CARPET!

      GG3 is crap.

      • James Burkett

        Oh sorry I didn’t know we were talking about a Nexus phone, I thought we were talking about how brittle the iPhone 6 Sapphire screen will be.

      • tiger

        My point is that GG3 is just as fragile…and infinitely worst for wear and tear.

        Apple patented laminated sapphire…read up on it. Laminate sapphire = best of both worlds.

      • James Burkett

        We’ll just wait for the finished product. See the stress tests they will inevitably put it through

      • tiger

        Ahh, found what i was looking for:

        “GT Advanced Technologies acquired Twin Creeks Technology late in 2012, and one of their first primary focuses was to “to pursue the development of thin sapphire laminates for use in applications such as cover and touch screen devices”.

        The Hyperion ion implanter machine acquired from Twin Creeks can cut ultra-thin wafers (25 microns thick) out of silicon, silicon carbide, sapphire, germanium and now, solar cells. How thick is 25 microns? The laser-sliced sapphire home buttons on the iPhone 5s measure 170 microns thick, which is nearly 7 times the thickness of the sapphire laminates that can be sliced by GT’s Hyperion.”

        So, again, i highly doubt that the new iPhone 6 sapphire panel will easily shatter. Sapphire production has come a long way.

        And yeah, i have no doubt that the new sapphire panel will blow away anything Gorilla Glass brings to the table.

        Sapphire IS the holy grail for phone displays. This is NO snake oil dude. So, this is why i laughed at your statement.

        You want marketing hype? See Android world and Corning.

      • Morky

        Don’t need to worry about iPhone 6 screen, it’s just as breakable as ever, and not sapphire.

  • tiger

    Laminate sapphire. Apple using this. This article is irrelevant.

  • Davey

    So why don’t you test gorilla glass with the same thickness of the sapphire sample? That would give a better 1:1 (scientific) comparison. So to say its only 25% stronger with thinner comparison sample? Not every gorilla glass cell phone manufacturer uses the same thickness (like Apples easily broke paper-thin glass screens). BTW I’ve never seen a cell phone bend as much as you bent either of these glass sheets. That would blow the phone apart. I’ll stick with sapphire over my past iPhone experiences – Kyocera here I come.