We may not yet have sapphire glass on our iPhone screens, but Apple has been claiming to use the ultra-hard material for its iPhone camera lens since 2013’s iPhone 5s.
However, those claims are being called into question by a new durability test carried out by YouTuber JerryRigEverything, who compares the hardness of the iPhone 7 camera lens with the sapphire display of a Tissot sapphire watch — and finds that the iPhone camera lens scratches far more easily.
GT Advanced Technologies — a.k.a. the disastrous sapphire supplier which was hired by Apple to build iPhone displays, before collapsing into bankruptcy — has announced that it has reemerged from Chapter 11 as a newly-reorganized company with a “solid balance sheet,” and “renewed strategy focused on growth in the solar and sapphire industries.”
In the lead-up to the iPhone 6, everyone expected Apple to give it a sapphire glass display. Sapphire glass, it was said, would lead to nigh-indestructible screens: Scratched and shattered iPhone displays would become a thing of the past.
Of course, we all know what happened from there. Apple’s sapphire partner, GT Advanced Technologies, completely collapsed, and the iPhone 6 shipped with plain old Gorilla Glass. Yet even if it hadn’t, Apple might not have used sapphire glass, which was much more reflective and harder to read in ambient light than Gorilla Glass.
But here’s the key word: was. A new technology has emerged that might make sapphire glass every bit as good when it comes to viewability as Gorilla Glass.
GT Advanced Technologies’ attempts to make sapphire iPhone screens for Apple may have ended in disaster, but that’s not stopping GT senior execs from asking for millions to be paid out in bonuses.
Because the company filed for bankruptcy protection back in October, any bonus program needs to have the signature of a judge in order to be legally binding. GT is requesting a hearing in January, although it admits there is likely to be opposition.
The bonus program would cover 9 unidentified senior executives, and could add up to $2.275 million if all the necessary targets are hit. A second bonus proposal would pay a total of $1.4 million to an additional 28 people.
Corning’s relationship with Apple looked doomed earlier this year. Having manufactured the touchscreens for every iPhone since 2007, the Gorilla Glass bosses were all but sure they were being ditched in favor of synthetic sapphire crystal, set to be supplied by Apple’s hot new partner, GT Advanced Technologies.
But while Apple’s affair with GT has imploded spectacularly, Corning is back on Cupertino’s crush list after stepping in at the eleventh hour to create super-sized displays for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Now Corning is convinced its latest technological advance — Gorilla Glass 4, its toughest version yet — will banish sapphire suitors for the immediate future.
“Sapphire is a really, really nice material that’s very good for reducing scratches,” Dave Velasquez, Corning’s director of marketing and commercial ops, told Cult of Mac. “However, we feel very strongly that glass is the best material for touch panel cover glass. When you weigh up everything from cost to drop-testing, to the amount of energy that’s needed to make it, in our opinion Gorilla Glass is clearly the best material to use.”
Now photos published by the Wall Street Journal show some of GTAT’s sapphire errors, made just days before Apple signed a deal for the company to produce sapphire displays to be used in next generation iPhones. The 578 pound sapphire cylinders — known as boules — featured multiple flaws, which rendered the majority unusable.
While Apple certainly pushes its manufacturers hard to seemingly achieve the impossible on tighter and tighter profit margins, the picture that emerges from the WSJ article is of GT as a chaotic company, struggling from the very start to fulfil Apple’s expectations.
Apple’s sapphire ambitions with GT Advanced Technology have been a complete disaster. But even though the plan to turn Mesa, Arizona, into the Sapphire Capital of the West failed, Apple executives are still looking for a way to repurpose GT’s new factory.
The city of Mesa and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer bent over backward to bring Apple to the Grand Canyon State, but now that GTAT plans to shut down operations, Apple says it’s still committed to helping the area.
The start of any innovative business should be identifying a service that the current market leader in the sector is not supplying.
With Apple’s failure to provide sapphire displays for its latest iPhones — thanks to the spectacular collapse of now-bankrupt supplier GT Advanced Technologies — you’d think that other smartphone makers would be climbing over one another to bring sapphire-enhanced smartphones to market; demonstrating that they can do what Tim Cook and his billions of dollars weren’t able to.
Which is why it’s something of a surprise (or perhaps not!) to hear that Apple’s troubles with sapphire displays has pretty much discouraged other companies from trying the same thing.