Mobile

Sapphire could be the key to nearly indestructible smartphone screens

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The sad but undeniable reality about smartphone displays is that they shatter — and often.

Manufacturers, however, may have a fix: Sapphire, the second-strongest material on earth, which could be used to up the protection factor in smartphones, MIT Technology Review reports.

iPhone 5 camera

Above: That’s not glass that’s covering the iPhone’s camera.

The idea isn’t entirely new. Apple already uses sapphire to protect the lens on the iPhone 5, and absurd luxury smartphone maker Vertu uses the material to protect the display on its latest device. (Sapphire is also a really common material in high-end watches and grocery store barcode scanners.)

The problem? This stuff ain’t cheap. As Technology Review points out, a sapphire display currently runs for $30 — roughly ten times the price of a Gorilla Glass display. This means its going to be a tough for the material to be used widely in smartphones until it gets a bit cheaper.

There are options, though. Rather than create a display entirely out of sapphire, manufacturers could place a thin layer of the material on top of another transparent material, reducing price. The drawback there, though, is that while a thin layer of sapphire will protect devices from surface scratches, it would have a tough time keeping your phone display intact if you dropped it. Just like with Gorilla Glass today.

While the future of sapphire is smartphone is still largely uncertain, I do know this: Lots of smartphone owners would be glad to pay a premium for their phones that don’t explode on impact. Let’s make it happen, guys.

Photo: Flickr/gemteck1