Whether or not the upcoming iPhone 6 will sport a sapphire crystal display or not is something we’ll have to wait to find out for sure, but the ultra-strong material used by many high end watch manufacturers is certainly something Apple has spent a lot of time investigating.
Some of those investigations have led to a new patent application published today, revealing how Apple plans a technique for strengthening glass by using an “ion implanting” method as opposed to the kind of chemical coatings used for, say, Corning’s Gorilla Glass.
According to the application, the reason for this is that the kind of traditional chemical strengthening techniques used on glass screens might not be effective when used on materials like sapphire.
The technique described in the application is reportedly similar to the method currently used by Apple to color the black bezels on iPhones, and works by directly implanting ions into the glass itself. Since the method results in the tinting of glass, it makes most sense to use it in non-transparent areas to provide additional resistance to crack damage.
Prior to this, Apple patented a method for producing a hybrid sapphire laminate, which may be necessarily to use since a pure sapphire display could prove prohibitively costly and without the necessary flexibility for a smartphone screen.
Earlier this year, Apple opened its own sapphire manufacturing plant in Arizona, to manufacture what was described in paperwork as “a critical new sub-component” for an unnamed future Apple product.