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

A new video from Aero-Gear demonstrates the potential of sapphire screens. In the video we see a concrete block rubbed against a sapphire screen protector, and yet it comes out of the match unscratched.
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?