How an Apple rumor sparked a sapphire revolution

“For years, Gorilla Glass was the toughest material a mobile device could use to protect its delicate display components,” Christina Bonnington reports for Wired. “A mix of silicon dioxide, aluminum, sodium, and magnesium, Corning’s scratch-resistant composite material was the gold standard in protecting a smartphone’s display against breakage. But starting around mid-2013, a new option became visible: sapphire.”

“While more expensive to produce than Gorilla Glass, sapphire is significantly tougher,” Bonnington reports. “It’s up to three times stronger; diamond is the only material hard enough to nick it. Apple was widely rumored to be moving to sapphire displays in its mobile devices, particularly after the Cupertino company partnered with GT Advanced Technologies in the construction of a Mesa, Arizona sapphire production plant.”

“That arrangement didn’t pan out. Sapphire didn’t make it into the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus as reported (other than in its camera lens), and the factory was repurposed after GT Advanced filed for bankruptcy,” Bonnington reports. “Even though sapphire never made it into the iPhone’s display, between interest in the new material and its maturation in the market, we’re now seeing sapphire on a growing number of mobile products.”

Read more in the full article here.


  1. The article is less about sapphire than it is about Apple’s influence on entire industries — so profound that mere rumours joggle production lines at other firms. This has the consequence that Apple is seldom first with tech innovation, to the delight of the Haters, who can gleefully point to Apple’s status as a copyist or follower.

    Checking the comments following the article, I note with sadness the recurrent accusation that Apple’s customers are mindless. Why sadness? Because if the slur is true, then a large proportion of the human race have limited mental function, as they demonstrate by buying inferior, overpriced Apple products in ever-increasing numbers. The Haters have not yet explained why mental defectives with their Apple toys have more money to spend than the Intelligentsia to which Haters belong, but I expect they are working up a talking point, to be revealed soon in the next wave of FUD.

    1. You are blabbering.

      Apple does not have to lead, for others to follow. The sad part, the followers are not looking, blinded by money.

      Customers who buy Apple products are lucid, while customers who buy copy-cat clones are chumps, if that makes sense.

        1. OIC. But that’s a matter of style and personal expression. It can be fun to spell out elaborate expositions. I’ve known Glenda for some time now, so I enjoy how she writes. But I also enjoy brevity if it gets the point across.

  2. Got married Sept 1993. My gift was a Movado Museum Watch with a sapphire crystal and black titanium band. I used to wear the watch all the time, but lately I wear it only for special occasions. To this day there is not a single defect on the crystal.
    When in a group of people talking about Apple phones and/or watches I always pull out my watch and show them the still pristine crystal. It really is amazing after more than 20 years that it still is a beautiful watch.
    (This is the watch Jony should have designed . It is one of the most elegant watches ever made. IMHO)

  3. From what little I’ve read on the subject, the ideal protective cover would be transparent, hard AND flexible. Sapphire does well with the first two attributes but fails with the last. The larger the piece of sapphire the more dire the consequences of the lack of flexibility, resulting in what Apple called ‘brittleness’. Replacing shattered iPhone display covers is not Apple’s idea of fun or a good way to spend money. Gorilla glass still wins. Analcyst rumor mongerers still lose.

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