TechnologyReview writes manufactured sapphire could be the next big thing for smartphone screens. The site speculates the material could soon become cheap enough to replace the glass display covers, resulting in phones with screens that don't crack when you drop them on concrete sidewalk and can't be scratched with keys. The material is harder than any other natural material except diamond, it's reportedly three times as strong as Corning's Gorilla Glass, and also about three times more scratch resistant. The only issue of sapphire is its high cost, at present it's about ten times more expensive than Gorilla Glass, but laminating an ultrathin layer of sapphire with another, cheaper transparent material, may shave off much of the cost difference.
A Gorilla Glass display costs less than $3, while a sapphire display would cost about $30. But that could fall below $20 in a couple of years thanks to increased competition and improving technology, says Eric Virey, an analyst for the market research firm Yole Développement. And since sapphire performs better than glass, that price could make it cheap enough to compete, he says.
Sapphire is harder than any other natural material except diamond; by some measures, it’s three times stronger than Gorilla Glass, and it is also about three times more scratch resistant. That’s why Apple uses it now to protect the camera on its iPhone 5. Virey says that all major mobile-phone makers are considering using sapphire to replace glass. “I’m convinced that some will start testing the water and release some high-end smartphones using sapphire in 2013,” he says.