Are sapphire screens worth the hype when it comes to scratch resistance?

February 5, 2014

When it comes to protecting smartphones from scratches, Corning Gorilla Glass is the current king of the business. Sure, you can still scratch a phone with a Gorilla Glass display, but it’s a lot more difficult. Of course, the holy grail in screen protection would be a display that is virtually unscratchable, and reportedly that’s exactly what sapphire glass could bring to the table.

At the moment, the only way to get the protection of sapphire glass on a smartphone is through 3rd party covers, though rumors suggest that this might be changing in the near future — at least for the iPhone. So is Sapphire Glass worth the hype? When it comes to protecting from scratches, the answer seems to be yes.

Sapphire is one of the hardest materials in the world which means, at least in theory, only something equal to or harder can scratch a sapphire screen — such as other sapphires and diamonds. As the video from case maker Aero-Gear demonstrates (seen above), this makes it possible to drag just about anything across the display and yet escape without a scratch.

So is Sapphire Glass worth the hype? When it comes to protecting from scratches, the answer is yes.

So why aren’t more manufacturers jumping at the idea of sapphire displays over solutions like Corning Gorilla Glass? Probably the biggest reason is cost. While Gorilla glass screens cost around $3, sapphire screens cost considerably more, with pricing projected to be at least $10 or more. Beyond this, there’s more to protect your screen from than just scratches. While Sapphire Glass is very scratch resistant, it’s not shatter proof.

In fact, a test conducted by Corning last year saw sapphire glass break with a force of 161 lbs put upon it, while Gorilla Glass as able to handle 436 lbs. Of course, that’s an internal test, so it’s important to keep that in mind.

In a piece released by TechCrunch late last year, Matthew Hall — Alfred Unversity’s Director of the Centerer for Advanced Ceramic Technology at the Kazuo Inamori School of Engineering — claimed that the “fracture toughness of sapphire should be around 4 times greater than Gorilla Glass – about 3 MPa-m0.5 versus 0.7 MPa-m0.5, respectively.” So the answer to this question seems to differ, depending on who you ask.

The reality of the situation is probably somewhere in the middle, meaning sapphire glass is roughly as shatter-proof as Gorilla Glass but better at resisting scratches. What do you think, would you like to see Android manufacturers make a move towards Sapphire glass? Or do you feel that Corning Glass (and a little caution) is a good enough solution for protecting your display?

Comments

  • Mike Bastable

    where Apple goes others will follow i suppose. the glass on my G2 is pretty much perfect after 2 months……

    • Andrew Grush

      I agree. It’s all in how you use it, Mike. I suppose some folks will still find ways to scratch the heck out of their display, sapphire ‘glass’ or not.

      I’ve had my Nexus 5 for well over a month and not a single scratch (at least not that’s noticeable)… but I baby the heck out of it and wipe it down with a cleaning cloth like every 2 to 4 hours… :)

      • Bryan Z

        My nexus 5 has been fine so far but I can so something like this can be useful for a construction worker, or even if you have kids… I wish lifeproof made a nuud case for the nexus 5.

      • Kelly Caffrey

        My nexus 5 i’ve had since release has a few minor scratches that are almost impossible to see, unless I tried really hard and had to dim the screen + viewing it from certain angles.

        in other words, my nexus 5 is still perfect to me.

      • Jesus

        Why Do you even wipe?

      • Jimmy Jamm

        Using Spigen Slim Armor and an invisashield, my Nexus 5 is perfect, not just “perfect to me”…and the case doesn’t add much bulk…definitely worth the price for the protection…

      • Mike Bastable

        i must admit to generally ignoring my baby and just using it, it seems to react well to user indifference, lol, no scratches and my screen seems to clean itself in my pocket. I seem to be lazy…i will go and buy a cleaning cloth this afternoon.
        My top tip have 2 pockets, one for keys and coins and one for your Smartphone.

    • fredphoesh

      PLEEEEZE mike, are you SERIOUS? Apple now have fingerprint scanning (copied from another company) they now have pull-down notifications (copied from Android) they now have an almost decent interface (again, influenced by flat, vanilla android interface) They can (almost) multitask… sorry, the notion that apple innovates and the rest follow is ignorant and stupid.

      • TheWay

        I am 100% positive sure that Android OS its a copy of iPhone OS X 2007 and i’m guessing yo’re using Android so that makes ignorant and studpid?, also i am gonna use fingerprint s in the future and doesnt mean is gonna be an iphone but i’m definetily sure i will not use the one from Motorolla on my account because i’m smart and dont use crap

        • Jayfeather787

          Android is not a copy of IOS. If anything, it is the other way around.

          • Brian Shieh

            To be fair, Android did do a major overhaul once iPhone OS was revealed. But after that, Apple started borrowing from Android

        • Alisan_C

          Android OS: “since 2005″

          but sure they based it on a system from 2007 back in 2005

          • Patrick

            Alisan_C now I know which side of the court your playing on. You do know that Eric Schmidt of Google was on the board of Apple when they were developing the iPhone right? They (Google) were also developing Android but after what Schmidt saw what Apple was doing he decided to redo Android and the quit the Apple board. You do know that don’t you?The iPhone came out in 2007 and you think it takes less than 2 years to develop a smartphone OS and hardware? Come on it takes Android that long just to push updates.

      • Tanner Hoyt

        Before the 5S, you never heard much talk of fingerprint scanners. Now the HTC One Max has it and the S5 is apparently going to have it. Android OEMs didn’t seem interested in 64-bit processors until the 5S. Now they’re talking about having them in phones this year. Even before that, the iPhone 4 started the race for high resolution screens with its “retina display”.

        So yes, when it comes to features, more times than not Apple leads the pack. They’ll come out with something, and then everyone else scrambles to mimic it.

        P.S. No, I’m not an Apple fanboy. I just don’t bullshit myself. I give credit where credit is due.

        • Jason Yuen

          Retina display, I’ll give you that. That was the first device that made people want higher resolution screens. But for 64 bit, it’s a natural progression. If anyone can truly benefit from it first, it’s Samsung. You can bet they saw this long before they put 3gb ram into the Note 3. Then again you can look at screen sizes. Samsung was the first to put a real stake into phablets and it paid off. Apple stubbornly didn’t want to follow until the iphone 5. Steve Jobs said 3.5 inches was the perfect size. If it was so perfect then why did they change it? They saw the success in large screens and adapted. Afterall, it is a business and the sole purpose of a for-profit business is to make money.

          • Tanner Hoyt

            Yes, it is natural progression, but the same could be argued for higher resolution screens. Of course phones would eventually have high resolution screens even if the iPhone 4 didn’t. Of course phones would eventually have 64-bit processors even if the 5S didn’t. But because Apple did it first, other companies felt the need to compete and got working on it a lot sooner than they likely would have.

          • Alisan_C

            Its the other way around.

            Samsung started a spec war, they were beter on paper, apples reaction was a 64bit. So Samsung die it first and others (like Apple felt the need tot compete).

            64bits were scheduled for late 2014-2015. Now its just a couple of months earlier

        • Alisan_C

          What? before the 5S you never heard much talk of fingerprint scanners? this is 100% concentrated BS. There were laptops with fingerprint scanners before, Apple just acted on the right moment – when fingerpint scanners were improved.

          I have a 5S and I was like wow for 10min. that’s it :p a 10min wow factor.

          Coming to the 64bit: There is at this moment no need for 64bit. Apple moving first was just to make the 5S different from the 5.
          64bit with 1Gb ram is actually a joke from Apple. Oh and did you hear? They are being sued for the 64bit chip, case described as: Intentional infringement/intentionally infringed.

          Yes everyone copies from each other, but Apple is never the first. They are however the ones who implement it perfectly.

          Also I HATE apple vs android/samsung/htc battles as they are BS too. I have android devices as well as iOS/mac.

          • Tanner Hoyt

            I didn’t say you NEVER heard about fingerprint scanners, I said that you hardly did, which is true.

            Apple has never been a first? If you honestly think that then you’re deluding yourself.

          • Alisan_C

            They didn’t build the first smartphone, they weren’t the first with 64bit idea (ubuntu edge)
            Fingerprint scanners were already used on laptops.

            Saphire glass? Nope again Ubuntu came with that idea.

          • Tanner Hoyt

            People always use the same argument. “Apple didn’t build the first smartphone!” No shit? They didn’t make the first one, but they made the first one as we know it today. They completely revolutionized what a “smartphone” was. They raised the bar far above what was out at the time. Just like tablets. They didn’t invent the first tablet, but they invented the first tablet as we know it today. They revolutionized it.

            Apple had a pending patent sapphire displays before Unbuntu’s “Edge” idea. Which never actually happened, so that hardly counts. George Lucas can’t say he invented the lightsaber if someone actually makes it. Yes, he had the general idea but he didn’t actually make it happen.

          • Alisan_C

            That hardly counts? It means ubuntu already had a patent? Since otherwise they couldn’t produce (because if the kickstarter reached the goal they were going to start producing..)

            You do sound like an apple fan. (not that I say that is bad) I like apple products myself, but to give apple all the credit for the smartphone as we know it today, that must be a joke.

            The PDA determined the smartphone as we know it today: touchscreen, internet, mail etc. not apple’s iphone.

            Again, you’re overexagerating apple’s contribution. Yes, they helped form the technology industry of smartphones and tablets.

            For the tablet: search for the Microsoft Tablet PC. Produced in 2000-2002. (iPad is only known since 2010).

            I am not an apple hater. I like their products but hate the fact that since the 3GS everyone thinks apple is the first in everything.

        • Jayfeather787

          Motorola Atrix had the finger print sensor first. Yeah I agree that Samsung S5 will have the fingerprint sensor because of the 5S, but Moto had it first.

          • mrjayviper

            limited availability unlike the 5s. I don’t think other makers would actually think of a fingerprint scanner because the atrix had one.

          • Alisan_C

            you can still buy an atrix

          • Alisan_C

            lol you couldn’t reply to my other reaction could you ;)

          • mrjayviper

            I didn’t know you had another one :)

            But my point stands, Samsung and others won’t be looking at atrix when thinking of a finger print scanner

          • Alisan_C

            That’s your opinion and it’s not true.

            When there is already a fingerprint scanner they will look at all the available ones and think how it can be improved :)

            So I bet they all did look at the atrix (alongside with the 5S) to get a better insight.

          • mrjayviper

            Seems that’s also your opinion?

          • Alisan_C

            nope, that’s a fact.

            Companies always look at ALL the existing technology to see how and where they can improve.

          • Patrick

            See my comment to your comment above

          • Tanner Hoyt

            And? Apple didn’t invent the first portable MP3 player, they just revolutionized the device. They didn’t make the first smartphone, they revolutionized it. They didn’t make the first tablet, they revolutionized it. It doesn’t really matter who is “first”, it matters who makes it great.

          • Alisan_C

            I quote you twice:

            - But because Apple did it first, other companies felt the need to compete.

            - It doesn’t really matter who is “first”, it matters who makes it great.

            Nice paradox ;) saying apple’s first (using it as an argument) and then saying it actually doesn’t matter who is first (you use this as an argument too).

          • Tanner Hoyt

            Apple was the first with a 64-bit processor and high-resolution display. That’s what I was referring too. Stop taking what I say out of context.

          • Patrick

            @Alison C
            She didn’t say it was important to be first… She said “Apple did it first and the others felt the need to compete”… I don’t see where her argument says It is important to be first. If anything Apple always refuses to add new technology until it has matured enough to work the way they want it to work with their devices. Which goes well with the other comment “It doesn’t really matter who is first, it matters who makes it great.

      • Mike Bastable

        it was IRONIC! cmon guys

      • MrX8503

        Original iPhone was the first to use GG and saved Corning from bankruptcy.

  • RanRu

    Well, caution is always the best protection for a phone, of course.

    Vertu actually makes an Android smartphone with a sapphire crystal display right now, not that that makes it a good phone. Ancient hardware and a ludicrous price tag effectively keep it out of the hands of the masses.

  • Joshua Hill

    Anybody with a quality watch will probably be wearing sapphire glass and know it is virtually scratch resistant.

    Having said that my 2 1/2 year old SGS2 with only gorilla glass 1 (I think) still has no scratches.

    • AA :P

      i guess it boils down to phone care too. I had the p910 for the longest time as my trusted assistant (I had another phone too), but that phone was built like a tank and was almost without blemishes, no cover/ case, ever – just decent handling

  • AA :P

    if the answer is somewhere in the middle about shattering, why not the same about scratching ? even the gorilla glass is not all that bad when it comes to scratching.

    take decent care of the screens. most people have a protective case anyways!

    • salf

      Because scratching is verifiably, scientifically lots less likely with Sapphire than with gorilla glass. That part isn’t up for debate. Not even by Corning management or lawyers.

      • AA :P

        I dint say a thing about sapphire, but to insinuate that gorilla glass scratches easily is not exactly true isn’t it ? the whole point of gorilla glass was it being tough while being scratch resistant, not scratch proof.

        ” That part isn’t up for debate. Not even by Corning management or lawyers.”
        wtf was that for ?

  • MasterMuffin

    Graphene is the answer!

    • salf

      What’s the question?

      • MasterMuffin

        Magic

  • Jesus

    Why don’t we use plastic anymore?

    because they don’t shatter

    • Adam & Eve

      Holographic display is the answer, manufacturer should start focusing on it.
      No more glass shatter, no more oversized ‘phablet’.

  • fredphoesh

    “reality” isnt what you WANT it to be… The sapphire glass may or may not be a lot more shatter-prone than gorilla glass… time, and an impartial test will tell.

  • Bernie Mills

    Ya… And then price them so humongously that normal folk can’t even think about buying them! Corning glass is excellent. Its apt and more than enough for protection. And in any case its not like we are hitting our phones with some rock! What are we!? Cavemen?

  • Jayfeather787

    I like anything that protects against scratches.

  • gamerscul9870

    To those saying apple copied what, who the Fck cares, maybe some mentioned before weren’t that good or worked like touch id, but about the glass rants, to clear everything up, just because apple uses this doesn’t mean they copied, it’s someone that makes them then they ship it to them, it’s called deals they make. Go on all you want if you reply but the moment you do, unless it’s about how wrong I am, that means you’re wrong. Nuffield said.

    • gamerscul9870

      Nuff*

  • David_midtown

    I can’t believe this article or the hype. Ever since I had Gorilla glass on my first android, I never got a scratch on it. I showed people how awesome it was by striking it directly with a key and swiping it across the display and no scratches. I’ve even accidentally thrown my phone and it went smacking over concrete and only the metal casing was hurt, not the glass. I got my LG G2 phone with the sapphire glass and after only 2 days I got a scratch in it. So this article is BS. and the claims are just hype. I’m sure its good but no way is it better than gorilla glass.