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How Apple's Billion Dollar Sapphire Bet Will Pay Off

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the sapphires-now-require-proprietary-connectors dept.

Cellphones 195

alphadogg writes: "Apple is making a billion dollar bet on sapphire as a strategic material for mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPad and perhaps an iWatch. Exactly what the company plans to do with the scratch-resistant crystal – and when – is still the subject of debate. Apple is creating its own supply chain devoted to producing and finishing synthetic sapphire crystal in unprecedented quantities. The new Mesa, Arizona plant, in a partnership with sapphire furnace maker GT Advanced Technologies, will make Apple one of the world's largest sapphire producers when it reaches full capacity, probably in late 2014. By doing so, Apple is assured of a very large amount of sapphire and insulates itself from the ups and downs of sapphire material pricing in the global market."

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Well. (2)

Psyko (69453) | about 6 months ago | (#46819407)

The only thing it's hurting is the other people looking for sapphire display covers like was mentioned a couple months back.

Personally, I'm on the Gorilla Glass [corninggorillaglass.com] bandwagon.
It's:
          Stronger
          Stronger
          Cheaper & faster to produce

apple can pretty much do what it wants and they have plenty of money so it's not like it's a gamble at this point. $1bn is not going to dent their bank.

I own a couple of their devices, but I've personally relegated them down to be things I don't even carry around, and the interface always makes me feel like I'm using one of those kid's toy computers that has like 6 buttons with pictures on them (the cow says Mooooo).

Re:Well. (1)

Psyko (69453) | about 6 months ago | (#46819435)

Stronger
          Stronger

Should have been
          Stronger
          Lighter
Guess I'm tired.

Re:Well. (2)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 6 months ago | (#46819497)

Should have been

          Stronger

          Lighter
Guess I'm tired.

Should have been
          Stronger
          Harder
          Faster

Re:Well. (1)

Arkh89 (2870391) | about 6 months ago | (#46819605)

Should have been :
Harder,
Better,
Faster,
Sronger

tutututut...

Re:Well. (4, Funny)

plover (150551) | about 6 months ago | (#46819749)

Make it harder sells it better
Work 'em faster Apple's stronger
More than ever iPhone after
iPod works the Android over

Re:Well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46820103)

Wait
Don't stop
Keep going
Almost there
goaallllllllllllllll

Re:Well. (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 6 months ago | (#46820563)

Remember slashdot is a US based website, that should be spelled "tsktsktsktsk"

Re:Well. (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 6 months ago | (#46820171)

Uhmmm, saphire is harder than glass.

Re:Well. (4, Interesting)

catmistake (814204) | about 6 months ago | (#46819453)

The only thing it's hurting is the other people looking for sapphire display covers like was mentioned a couple months back.

Personally, I'm on the Gorilla Glass [corninggorillaglass.com] bandwagon. It's: Stronger Stronger Cheaper & faster to produce

apple can pretty much do what it wants and they have plenty of money so it's not like it's a gamble at this point. $1bn is not going to dent their bank.

I own a couple of their devices, but I've personally relegated them down to be things I don't even carry around, and the interface always makes me feel like I'm using one of those kid's toy computers that has like 6 buttons with pictures on them (the cow says Mooooo).

I to am on the Gorilla Glass bandwagon as well, and a big big fan of Corning. But Gorilla Glass is under patent. Synthetic Sapphire has been around since 1902, and it was cheap back then. Sapphire is hard... 9 on the Mohs scale, and the only substance harder is natural and synthetic diamond. I find it difficult to believe... so...do you have any references that says Gorilla Glass is cheaper and harder than Sapphire?

Re:Well. (4, Interesting)

NoKaOi (1415755) | about 6 months ago | (#46819551)

I find it difficult to believe... so...do you have any references that says Gorilla Glass is cheaper and harder than Sapphire?

Even Corning's own website doesn't say outright that Gorilla Glass is stronger. Only that:

Sapphire's performance as a cover for high-end watches probably leads to the current speculation. But those covers are much smaller than a mobile phone and are two to three times thicker than Gorilla Glass. In one of our commonly accepted strength tests, sapphire breaks more easily than Gorilla Glass after the same simulated use. Additionally, sapphire’s cost and environmental hit are huge issues.

Notice how they totally weasel around and, and only in "one of our commonly accepted strength tests" did Gorilla Glass outperform sapphire? So do they only have one test, or did sapphire outperform Gorilla Glass in all the others?

The real question is: Which is more likely to break in real life? That probably depends on how you test it. The best test would be to give a bunch of iPhones to a statistically significant set of teenagers and see how many screens of each are still intact after a while.

Also, there is some speculation on several different sites that Apple may not intend to use sapphire for the screen, but instead for the camera lens. They currently use it on the camera lens and the home button. I wonder if it's something they could use in other things that don't currently use Gorilla Glass, like macbook screens?

Re:Well. (2)

catmistake (814204) | about 6 months ago | (#46819641)

Also, there is some speculation on several different sites that Apple may not intend to use sapphire for the screen, but instead for the camera lens. They currently use it on the camera lens and the home button.

That (external) speculation sounds kind if silly... considering there are lots of other teeny tiny parts in iOS devices that the cost of which probably is more volitile and fluctuates more than the price of synthetic sapphire. So for a billion dollars, it seems like an investment that would take decades to pay for itself.

I wonder if it's something they could use in other things that don't currently use Gorilla Glass, like macbook screens?

That is interesting, and would absolutely justify a billion dollar investment if that is their intention, because they would need a metric shitton of sapphire to pull that off. My guess is its just for the iPhone/iTouch screens, because the idea is already out there and being used for mobile device screens, and Apple sells a lot of iPhones, which I think would amount to enough sapphire needed to make it worth it to the Apple bean counters.

Re:Well. (5, Funny)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 6 months ago | (#46819707)

a metric shitton of sapphire

Exactly. Not one of those ill-defined imperial long shit tons and short shit tons.

tonnes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46820057)

nuf said

Re:tonnes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46820107)

Almost. Mod up GP! That's fucking hilarious.

Re:Well. (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 6 months ago | (#46820703)

Yes. One Library of Congress.

Re:Well. (3, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 6 months ago | (#46820079)

Sapphire is almost certainly more scratch resistant, because it's harder. Gorilla glass may well be less likely to break, since it's not as hard. Scratch and break resistance are usually difficult to get together. You're right, the real question is, in the real world, which is the more important property? Are scratches or breaks more common? Can other design features mitigate scratches or breaks more effectively?

I would think some rubber buffer around the glass could be used to add a lot of break resistance. Other than putting a film over the screen, scratches are pretty hard to prevent without making the surface itself more resistant.

Re:Well. (1)

vux984 (928602) | about 6 months ago | (#46820945)

I would think some rubber buffer around the glass could be used to add a lot of break resistance.

rubber doesn't really go with apple's metal and glass stylistic sensibilities.

Are scratches or breaks more common?

I've seen tons of broken screens even as recently as last week. I can't honestly say I've seen any scratched ones in the last few yers.

Re:Well. (4, Informative)

Seraphim1982 (813899) | about 6 months ago | (#46819553)

Sapphire is hard... 9 on the Mohs scale, and the only substance harder is natural and synthetic diamond.

Lots of things are harder then Sapphire, particularly carbides and borides. Examples include silicon carbide, titanium carbide, boron (the hardest element) boron carbide, and boron nitride.

I find it difficult to believe... so...do you have any references that says Gorilla Glass is cheaper and harder than Sapphire?

No one ever said it was harder, they said it was stronger.

Re:Well. (4, Informative)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about 6 months ago | (#46819595)

silicon carbide, titanium carbide, boron (the hardest element) boron carbide, and boron nitride.

All of which would make a really crappy screen cover.

Re:Well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46819973)

Doesn't matter how good of a screen cover they make in a sense, as if they are around in an environment they can still scratch your screen. Carbide dust can come up any place that uses abrasives, even sand paper. If the only harder substance was diamond, you wouldn't come across dust as often, even in tool environments considering how little is needed on diamond based tools.

Re:Well. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46820723)

silicon carbide, titanium carbide, boron (the hardest element) boron carbide, and boron nitride.

All of which would make a really crappy screen cover.

Well it would be a very good screen cover then as ALL apple crapple is just that crap one day they will invent the iTwat and vanish into it .

Re:Well. (4, Interesting)

lgw (121541) | about 6 months ago | (#46819885)

Gorilla glass cracks anyway. First time I drop a phone, there goes the glass. But it also scratches. It's far softer than sand, so in arid areas the grit that gets everywhere can scratch your phone in your pocket. Sapphire at least has that going for it - there's little in everyday life that can scratch it.

Re:Well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46820153)

i have dropped my droid4 like 7-8 times now from waist height, no scratches, no cracks. and it only has gorilla glass. i have also dropped my kindle ereader several times, and there is nothing wrong with it. my tablet goes in a backpack and does my mp3s from a 32gb sd card, so that doesn't get dropped.

Re:Well. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46820223)

i have dropped my droid4 like 7-8 times now from waist height, no scratches, no cracks. and it only has gorilla glass. i have also dropped my kindle ereader several times, and there is nothing wrong with it. my tablet goes in a backpack and does my mp3s from a 32gb sd card, so that doesn't get dropped.

What... are you an idiot? Androids can heal the sick, man! And you're just wasting that miraculous device spending all day dropping it? OK, that was the first thing I wanted to do with it too... I guess I shouldn't fault you. Sorry for the insult. Carry on.

Re:Well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46820675)

I've only scratched gorilla glass before with corundum powder, and carborundum powder.

Re:Well. (1)

Noughmad (1044096) | about 6 months ago | (#46821035)

i have dropped my droid4 like 7-8 times now from waist height, no scratches, no cracks.

just this terrible pain in all the diods down his left side...

dont be a retarded pedant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46820275)

Are carbides and borides transparent. Are there patents involved in their manufacturing process? Are they as scratch resistant?

Re:Well. (3, Informative)

arth1 (260657) | about 6 months ago | (#46819555)

I to am on the Gorilla Glass bandwagon as well, and a big big fan of Corning. But Gorilla Glass is under patent. Synthetic Sapphire has been around since 1902, and it was cheap back then. Sapphire is hard... 9 on the Mohs scale, and the only substance harder is natural and synthetic diamond. I find it difficult to believe... so...do you have any references that says Gorilla Glass is cheaper and harder than Sapphire?

I'm not the parent poster, but here's a ref [parts-people.com] claiming that Gorilla Glass is indeed both cheaper and far weaker than sapphire.

Re:Well. (2, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | about 6 months ago | (#46819897)

Why do expensive watches have sapphire crystals? Well, sapphire has advantages, but mostly because those watches are jewelry that happen to tell time.

Why will iPhones have sapphire screens? Because they are jewelry that happen to make phone calls. If you see Apple products as fashion accessories first, then sapphire screens are a brilliant idea.

Re:Well. (4, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 6 months ago | (#46820111)

Really? You got modded up for that?

Expensive watches have sapphire faces because sapphire is one of the hardest materials that can be made into a thin, transparent sheet for a reasonable price. That makes it very scratch resistant. It's not bling, it's very practical.

Re:Well. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46820655)

I have a $150 watch that has a sapphire crystal and titanium case. The watch case is significantly scratched and the crystal is not scratched at all. Definitely not bling and definitely practical. And not expensive (the replacement cost of the crystal is $50).

Re:Well. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46819559)

Sapphire is indeed harder than Gorilla Glass, whether you are talking about scratch hardness (the Mohs scale) or indentation hardness (the Vickers scale). There isn't an exact value for the scratch hardness of Gorilla Glass but it seems that people are easily able to scratch it with sandpaper, granite, or whatever, whereas you really cannot scratch sapphire with anything less than corundum/diamond.

Re:Well. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46819571)

Impact resistance and breakage resistance are not necessarily the same thing as hardness. Something which is flexible and can absorb impacts by elastic deformation can be far more 'tough' in real-world circumstances than something which is as hard as possible. Of course geometry and loading are relevant as well, especially if the material is anisotropic. But still, the area under the stress strain curve is typically a good first indicator of toughness, and that area is a product of both the forces required AND the deformation produced - something which can't deform much at all before fracture will be far less tough then something that can deform a lot.

Re:Well. (1)

crakbone (860662) | about 6 months ago | (#46820215)

I don't really care but if my phone can go through the same thing as this monitor I'll be very happy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

Re:Well. (2)

Guspaz (556486) | about 6 months ago | (#46819603)

From TFA, Gorilla Glass reportedly costs about $10 per display when Apple first started using it (on the original iPhone), with prices eventually dropping to about $3 today. Sapphire is expected to cost about $20 after all is said and done. It'll come down, certainly, but it's definitely not cheaper.

As for being tougher, my understanding is that it's far more scratch resistant than gorilla glass, but not necessarily as shatter resistant.

Re:Well. (1)

catmistake (814204) | about 6 months ago | (#46819655)

As for being tougher, my understanding is that it's far more scratch resistant than gorilla glass, but not necessarily as shatter resistant.

fyi, scratch resistence is also a measure of shatter resistence, so if a substance is more scratch resistant than another, it is also more shatter resistant, at least that's what I just read in an articled about sapphire linked from somewhere else in this thread.

Re:Well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46819759)

No scratch resistance is not a measure of shatter resistance. The sapphire is extremely hard, but also very thin. Very hard thin things tend to shatter when force is applied. The gorilla glass screens are actually plastic, so while they are softer and susceptible to scratches, have some give, and will require more force to shatter them. Which is better will depend on how the user treats the device.

I honestly don't know what you people do to your phones, my GS4 has never had a screen protector, ive dropped it, sat on it, fished it out of recliners, etc and there is nary a scratch on it.

Oh, and the article in the summary notes:

Secondly, it means overcoming a surprising problem: despite its hardness, synthetic sapphire can be prone to fracturing, at almost any point in this finishing process, due to impurities or to the presence of unresolved strains in the crystalline structure.

Even the slightest impurity can cause it to fail. That certainly does not sound shatter resistance

Re:Well. (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 6 months ago | (#46820141)

Even the slightest impurity can cause it to fail. That certainly does not sound shatter resistance

The slightest impurity? On an Apple device?

Not on your life.

Re:Well. (2)

Mr0bvious (968303) | about 6 months ago | (#46819797)

I'm certainly no materials expert but anecdotal evidence does not support your hypothesis.

Most plastic is less scratch resistant than most glass. Most glass is less shatter resistant than most plastics.

Therefore I conclude that: scratch resistance != measure of shatter resistence.

Re:Well. (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 6 months ago | (#46819815)

Looks like scratch resistence != shatter resistence.

Secondly, it means overcoming a surprising problem: despite its hardness, synthetic sapphire can be prone to fracturing, at almost any point in this finishing process, due to impurities or to the presence of unresolved strains in the crystalline structure.

“That’s something that’s being very carefully measured and tested,” says Stone-Sunderberg. “Fracturing is probably of the highest concern. If a product is released with a more expensive touch screen [cover] and consumers experience fracturing, they’re going to be highly disappointed. It would be devastating to the sapphire industry.”

Also, the tensile strength of regular glass (which varies considerably however) can match that of synthetic sapphire. Sapphire has very good compression stength though.
This is the reason for steel reinforced concrete. You can't easily compress concrete but you can pull it apart pretty easily. If you add steel with its good tensile strength, you get a strong material that excels in both areas.

Apple will need to do something with the sapphire or it will shatter with the slighest bend. Watch faces don't have this problem because they're relitively thick. You can't piss away millimetres in thickness and weight when it comes to the next gen smart phone.

Re:Well. (1)

catmistake (814204) | about 6 months ago | (#46820117)

Fair enough! It didn't sound right to me either... but I was sure I had just read something to that effect minutes before I posted.

Re:Well. (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 6 months ago | (#46819683)

So.. vapor deposit a layer of sapphire on top of the gorilla glass and call it a day....

Re:Well. (2)

Guspaz (556486) | about 6 months ago | (#46819765)

Corning owns Gorilla Glass, though, so that wouldn't help Apple increase their vertical integration. TFA does mention that there is work in that direction going on, though.

Re:Well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46819835)

...Sapphire is hard... 9 on the Mohs scale, and the only substance harder is natural and synthetic diamond.

Don't make yourself our to be stupid now:
silicon, tungsten and titanium carbide are all above sapphire on the "moh" scale..
Boron and several biproducts, etc is even harder.
And let's not get into nanocrystalline crystals here(above 10)

Re:Well. (1)

sensei moreh (868829) | about 6 months ago | (#46819883)

and the only substance harder is natural and synthetic diamond.

I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but there are substances haeder than corundum yet softer than diamond. SiC and BN come to mind

Re:Well. (1)

maliqua (1316471) | about 6 months ago | (#46819969)

Sapphire is hard... 9 on the Mohs scale, and the only substance harder is natural and synthetic diamond. I find it difficult to believe... so...do you have any references that says Gorilla Glass is cheaper and harder than Sapphire?

he said it was stronger not harder, very different things. things that are harder on the Mohs scale are more likely to shatter than things lower on the scale, hardness is not the only factor that determines the durability of a material .

Re:Well. (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 6 months ago | (#46820287)

"Sapphire is hard... 9 on the Mohs scale, and the only substance harder is natural and synthetic diamond"

Not even close. Boron is harder. Tungsten is harder with a Vicker's maximum of 2400, Sapphire 2300. Sapphires won't scratch my pure tungsten ring.

"and the only substance harder is natural and synthetic diamond. I find it difficult to believe..."

Well, given your lacking education on material hardness, not a surprise you can't believe.

Re:Well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46820301)

Keep in mind that Apple has a patent on making composite gorilla/sapphire glass with the strength of gorilla glass, and the scratch resistance of sapphire.

Sapphire and Steel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46819417)

All irregularities will be handled by the forces controlling each dimension. Transuranic, heavy elements may not be used where there is life. Medium atomic weights are available: Gold, Lead, Copper, Jet, Diamond, Radium, Sapphire, Silver and Steel. Sapphire and Steel have been assigned....

Should have gone with ruby.... (2)

BenJeremy (181303) | about 6 months ago | (#46819433)

...transparent aluminum! Clearly, Apple hates Star Trek.

Re:Should have gone with ruby.... (3, Informative)

zifnabxar (2976799) | about 6 months ago | (#46819467)

Rubies are sapphires, just with higher levels of chromium which makes them appear red. Maybe that's why Apple doesn't like them.

Re:Should have gone with ruby.... (5, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 6 months ago | (#46819495)

Obviously, Apple doesn't want any of that Chromium stuff in their app store.

Re:Should have gone with ruby.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46819505)

I love rubies... that color!

But as a platform, I don't understand all the hype about Ruby. Maybe when it was new it was easy to deal with, but now, Ruby has so many versions (i.e. point versions), and some devs only support the bleeding edge... so you take the time to install the platform, gem thisorthat, and crap, won't install, wrong version. Its a total pain in the ass running multiple versions of any platform, and I find it has zero support compared to what I am used to with other platfoms. Its just a mess now, IMO. No wonder Apple hates it.

Fuck Ruby. Bring me one of those chickens.

Re:Should have gone with ruby.... (1)

arth1 (260657) | about 6 months ago | (#46819509)

Scotty used an Apple Macintosh to enter the formula.

What struck me watching it was that
(a) My watch already had a transparent alumina crystal - sapphire.
(b) No real Scotsman would say aluminum, but aluminium.

Re:Should have gone with ruby.... (2)

catmistake (814204) | about 6 months ago | (#46819531)

(b) No true Scotsman would say aluminum, but aluminium.

FTFY.

I guess you forgot where you were.

Whales (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46820327)

What struck me was why TF did the tank need to be transparent anyway. They were just going to carry them in the ship to the future, not show them off to the public.

Re:Should have gone with ruby.... (1)

Guspaz (556486) | about 6 months ago | (#46819617)

Errm, sapphire *IS* transparent aluminum. It's aluminum oxide (Al2O3).

Re:Should have gone with ruby.... (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 6 months ago | (#46820187)

Yup, sapphire goes by many names, depending on its colour. Long ago when they were named, no-one knew it was the same crystal. Today, most people still don't.

Anyone else notice (5, Interesting)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 6 months ago | (#46819613)

that you can go from jack squat to worlds largest producer in a few years? I'm not saying they aren't gonna do it, I'm just saying it's crazy how fast their doing it. 50 years ago this would be a massive undertaking with a whole town built up around it. Now? I think the factory's gonna have a couple hundred employees. It's just nuts how few people you need in manufacturing anymore...

Re:Anyone else notice (4, Insightful)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 6 months ago | (#46819763)

You can go from jack squat to anything with a billion dollars.
Especially when the rest of the industry isn't all that large.

Re:Anyone else notice (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 6 months ago | (#46820231)

I guess my point is, 50 years ago you couldn't. The logistics alone would be too much, let alone setting up the manufacturing...

Re:Anyone else notice (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46819791)

"nowadays" not "anymore" christ people, learn fucking english

OMG (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46819631)

Which 3D printer are they going to use and which asteroid will they be mining for the materials! O Brave New World that has such technologies in it!

You've all missed the obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46819645)

When the screen is a custom job made out of artificial sapphire how is anyone going to get the correct replacement screens. Perhaps Apple is thinking that people will buy a new device or send it back to Apple to replaced a cracked screen instead of using one of a million cheap places that will do glass replacements on i devices. I'm sure that there will be all sorts of FUD by Apple about how glass is well glass and sapphire is better.

Re:You've all missed the obvious (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46819985)

I'm sure you can just replace it with 'lesser' materials of the same dimensions.

No one missed this because it is stupid.

It's a design problem, not materials. (4, Interesting)

aXis100 (690904) | about 6 months ago | (#46819721)

How about they just design a phone that doesn't shatter when you drop it? Having the glass right to the edges might look nice but it's completely unpractical from a robustness point of view. Apple are just fashion victims.

My motorola Defy+ has a thin plastic bezel that doesnt degrade its appearance yet absorbs those nasty corner shocks. Simple design to solve a common problem and doesnt require building an expensive saphire factory.

Re:It's a design problem, not materials. (2)

plover (150551) | about 6 months ago | (#46819779)

But it's ... it's not ... cool.

Apparently what is cool is to buy a gaudy plastic band to wrap around the edge to make up for this design defect, then bedazzle the shit out of it.

Re:It's a design problem, not materials. (2, Informative)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 6 months ago | (#46819857)

Hear, hear!

It seems like most of the IPhones I see have broken screens, but other phones only rarely. It's just a shitty design. Excuse me, I now have to go underground before the Apple fanboys catch up with me.

Re:It's a design problem, not materials. (2)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 6 months ago | (#46820183)

That's because the other phones don't continue to function after their screens get broken. :P

I've actually broken a couple of iPhone screens. They seem to survive the corner and edge drops just fine, but the face down drops onto concrete or an uneven stone floor breaks the screen. Still works fine though, which is impressive.

Re:It's a design problem, not materials. (1)

Cyberax (705495) | about 6 months ago | (#46820511)

They do. I once cracked a Galaxy S3 - it fell from about 2 meters. Screen was cracked and a couple of pieces fell out, yet it worked just fine.

Re:It's a design problem, not materials. (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 6 months ago | (#46820817)

I was kidding. But I'm happy your phone still worked.

Re:It's a design problem, not materials. (4, Insightful)

GauteL (29207) | about 6 months ago | (#46820901)

It seems like most of the IPhones I see have broken screens, but other phones only rarely.

I'll counter your anecdote with one of my own. I've seen dozens of iPhones in the hands of friends and co-workers. Only one of them ever had broken glass (the back panel) and that was in the hands of one of the biggest drunks I've ever known.

You simply only notice what you want to notice.

Re:It's a design problem, not materials. (4, Interesting)

GrahamCox (741991) | about 6 months ago | (#46819881)

How about they just design a phone that doesn't shatter when you drop it?

Yeah, they could, I dunno, make a harder kind of glass that doesn't shatter. Sounds familiar.

The point is that the Motorola design might be a cheaper solution, bit the phone simply looks shittier. Some people, presumably yourself, don't care about that, but plenty of others do. It's the sort of thing that makes a Mercedes a Mercedes, and a Lexus a not-quite-right knock off of the same thing.

Re:It's a design problem, not materials. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46820289)

iPhone glass doesn't go all the way to the edge. The metal ring around the iPhone is the edge, and it absorbs nasty corner shocks just fine. SquareTrade, whose job it is to keep up on this shit (since they pay out the insurance claims) consistently rates the iPhone as less breakable than its Android counterparts.

Re:It's a design problem, not materials. (2)

iroll (717924) | about 6 months ago | (#46820305)

My NexusS has a plastic bezel and it shattered from a 2-ft drop onto a faux-wood (read: not that hard) surface.

Because our anti-anecdotes would annihilate each other in a flash of light, you're going to have to come up with a better line of reasoning.

Re:It's a design problem, not materials. (2)

aXis100 (690904) | about 6 months ago | (#46820451)

Supposedly the NexusS doesnt use gorilla glass, so it is much weaker anyway.

Well (0)

The Cat (19816) | about 6 months ago | (#46819781)

At least they are trying to employ Americans. I'll believe it when I see it, though.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if they brought cargo ships full of Chinese teenagers to work every morning and shipped them home at night.

Silicon on Sapphire (2)

blinkenlights1 (3626619) | about 6 months ago | (#46819799)

Sapphire has a lot of uses besides the purely cosmetic - Perhaps the worlds biggest electronics innovator actually is targeting a future electronics requirement - Better RF, better sensors

oops (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 6 months ago | (#46819841)

Oops, it reflect purple beams of light in a different direction. There goes a billion. Maybe they should have tried a prototype. Oh well, they can always lie about it and blame the user.

The big secret? (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 6 months ago | (#46819873)

They're making phonograph needles...

It's about time (5, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about 6 months ago | (#46820021)

It's surprising that Apple didn't do this a long time ago. Checkout scanners have had sapphire-coated glass for a decade or more. I pointed this out a few years ago, and the Apple fanboys immediately replied that Gorilla Glass was good enough and sapphire was unnecessary.

It's embarassing how fragile Apple's mobile products are. But this, at least, will stop screens from being scratched by coins and keys. You can drag canned goods across a sapphire coated supermarket checkout scanner glass for a decade without much effect. Home Depot self-checkout scanners have sapphire coated glass, and they get everything in the tool department dragged across them.

Gorilla Glass is pretty strong (2)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 6 months ago | (#46820543)

It's surprising that Apple didn't do this a long time ago.

It's not if you read the article and know more about the costs Sapphire have traditionally added.

It's embarassing how fragile Apple's mobile products are.

You mean, the ones that use the same Gorilla Glass everyone else is using?

Sapphire does sound nice, but you are selling Gorilla Glass way short. It can take a lot of pounding, and I haven't had keys (or anything else) be able to scratch the display in years. I recall a model of the iPhone a few years ago where a YouTube review showed things like shaking the phone in a bag of keys, and the screen was untouched.

I have no doubt whatever comes next will be better, but I wouldn't say mobile devices suffer from overly delicate screens anymore.

Re:Gorilla Glass is pretty strong (1)

Archimonde (668883) | about 6 months ago | (#46821015)

Now thinking about it, I don't recall seeing an iphone (or gorilla glass equipped phone) with screen scratches. Yes, there most probably are there, but they are not visible in day to day operation which I think is all that matters.

Of course, what everyone sees is a lot of phones with cracked glass.

And as we all know, sapphire crystal glass on watches is more fragile than on the ones with mineral glass. Sapphire is more clear so the dials look nicer and it is less scratched though. But I haven't seen a watch with gorilla glass though.

iWatch Sapphire clearly (1)

aralin (107264) | about 6 months ago | (#46820053)

iWatch anyone?

Re:iWatch Sapphire clearly (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46820143)

No. I know the supplier in China. They are grinding glass for the iWatch.

mesa? (1)

meeotch (524339) | about 6 months ago | (#46820067)

Mesa facility, you say? I think it's clear they plan to use the synthetic sapphires to open a dimensional rift to an alien plane of existence, and destroy us all.

Substrates (4, Interesting)

grrrl (110084) | about 6 months ago | (#46820119)

Sapphire is not just for external materials, it is also a commonly used substrate for growth of various semiconductors for a range of devices (main substrate for GaN (blue LEDs), silicon on sapphire (SOS) tech). There are many reasons to use it as a substrate (transparent, radiation resistant, excellent thermal conductivity but low electrical conductivity) though some disadvantages which have largely been accounted for (poor lattice match to Si, GaN).

We used to get GaN grown on piddly little 2" sapphire wafers, which were themselves to start with hideously expensive. Growing on larger sapphire wafers is very interesting (think of how most production fabs are geared for 12" Si wafers).

Before you know it you may also find internal components made from material grown on sapphire made by Apple in Apple products.

Re:Substrates (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46820325)

Sapphire is not just for external materials, it is also a commonly used substrate for growth of various semiconductors for a range of devices (main substrate for GaN (blue LEDs), silicon on sapphire (SOS) tech). There are many reasons to use it as a substrate (transparent, radiation resistant, excellent thermal conductivity but low electrical conductivity) though some disadvantages which have largely been accounted for (poor lattice match to Si, GaN).

We used to get GaN grown on piddly little 2" sapphire wafers, which were themselves to start with hideously expensive. Growing on larger sapphire wafers is very interesting (think of how most production fabs are geared for 12" Si wafers).

Before you know it you may also find internal components made from material grown on sapphire made by Apple in Apple products.

This is the first thought that hit my mind. Keep in mind that a steady supply of good sapphire wafers may give a fab a significant competitive advantage. So Apply can trade wafers for something significant...not just low prices, but maybe preferred delivery, exclusive access to some technology. It might be better than offering cash.

The second thought is that Corning now has to change how much they charge for Gorilla glass. Apple can threaten to use sapphire in it place. Or, even worse (for Corning) Apple can threaten to sell cheap sapphire windows to all and sundry unless Corning offers a nice deal for Apple to cancel the project.

Re:Substrates (1)

grrrl (110084) | about 6 months ago | (#46820361)

They will be in a position to strong arm if they get manufacturing cranking, however I don't think the Apple of today would use something like this simply as extreme leverage against a supplier (though some pressure will of course be inevitable).

If they're smart (and don't for a second think they are not) then they really will move forward with this as another development in the American jobs and fabs and labs that they've started with the Made in USA Mac Pro (I'm not even American but I support smart manufacturing to keep an ever-changing creation industry local).

Re:Substrates (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46820461)

I don't know that you'll ever see 12" sapphire wafers. You can get 8" ones and last I heard they were almost 2mm thick--the bowing (and stress) is pretty intense. (And that thickness does not just drop into your 300 mm Si line.) Sapphire's kind of stuck at 6" and everyone growing GaN on 8" is doing it on Silicon wafers.

I'm not sure how the sapphire wafer marker is these days. There was basically a shortage when LED TVs became all the rage, but I imagine that's become an over-supply now that demand is somewhat down (unless it was all 2" and can't be converted). Not enough to feed Apple's demand, but probably plenty to prevent Apple from muscling in on the sapphire-substrate business.

Re:Substrates (1)

grrrl (110084) | about 6 months ago | (#46820579)

Thanks for the info, it has been a while since I talked to anyone who knew anything about commercial growth.

If 8" wafers have those issues then do you think it is then feasible to expect an iPhone screen out of sapphire any time soon?

Or will iPhone screens be thicker and thus can absorb more issues seen in thinner wafers, or do screen-grade sheets simply have a higher tolerance for fault densities and not need to be substrate grade?

Are you all seriously missing this? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46820169)

Sapphire is used in the manufacture of electronics. It's a good electrical insulator while being a decent thermal conductor. It's used as a substrate for ICs.
It's called Wikipedia. It has information.
You'd have to be kind of retarded to think they would be making screens out of synthetic sapphire. This is Apple going deeper into electronics manufacturing.

The glass on top is not the selling point... (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | about 6 months ago | (#46820201)

What happens when I poke at the device beneath? [Full disclosure, I won an iPad and used it long enough for it to piss me off, but realize a tablet was cool. I gave the iPad to someone who appreciated it, and bought an Android tablet...]

That new plant in Mesa, Arizona... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46820735)

...it wouldn't happen to be black, would it?

Next iPhone testimonials will be... (1)

havana9 (101033) | about 6 months ago | (#46820825)

Joanna Lumley and David McCallum. Yes the new iPhone 6 will have a steel case too.

Isn't this obvious? (1)

joh (27088) | about 6 months ago | (#46820867)

Apple is caught between their high-margin strategy and falling market share. The 5s/5c was a first try to do something but those were too similar to each other. Making the 5c cheaper would have eaten into the margins too much and making it crappier would have made it too crappy. So they have to make the "premium" version more premium and the budget version more different so it isn't just a cheaper iPhone.

I guess the 6s will have a sapphire screen, a 4.7" display with minimal bezels, an aluminum/ceramic case, the fingerprint sensor, a better camera and a faster SoC. The 6c will have a glass screen, a 5.x" display, larger bezels, a thicker plastic case, no sensor, a cheaper camera and a slower SoC (making it more of a phablet than a smartphone). This way they can charge a premium for the 6s, with more than healthy margins and the 6c will be sufficiently different from (and cheaper than) the 6s without one being just a slightly cheaper or more expensive version of the other. Those who want the 6s won't just buy the cheaper 6c because it is a very different beast and there'll be lots of people buying the 6c who wouldn't have considered an iPhone at all before.

It's one of the very few things Apple can do without cutting deeply into the margins. Up the margin for the premium version and make a version with tighter margins that is so different that you don't just switch to that for the price and can draw in new customers.

Well, as far as the sapphire goes: It's just there to justify higher prices and up the "premium" notion. It also may have some practical value, but honestly: My iPhone 4 is now more than three years old and there's not one scratch on the screen.

(And I also think that with smartphones becoming just "normal" products instead of "small computers for nerds" having more options in all directions is a good thing. In most normal products you have much larger price spans than even that. Go and buy furniture, clothes, houses... there's easily an order of magnitude between the cheapest and the most expensive even without going into the most outrageous luxury offers.)

laminated glass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46820885)

maybe they will laminate gorilla glass with a thin piece of sapphire. A scratch resistant surface on top of strong bendable glass.

Not sure if thin sapphire is bendable when it is thin.

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