Scratch test suggests iPhone 7 camera lens may not be pure sapphire

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Apple digital viewfinder patent
Apple's new camera lens is cool, but it may not be pure sapphire.
Photo: Apple

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.

Check the video out below.

After initial tests, JerryRigEverything was prepared to write off the iPhone camera lens as simply tempered glass. Then he decided to test the lens with an XRF machine and an electron microscope. He found that the lens does contain traces of sapphire.

The conclusion he reached is that Apple isn’t using pure sapphire crystal, but rather an impure version that, while stronger than regular glass, is considerably less than the near-diamond hardness of sapphire.

In real-world terms, this means that the iPhone camera lens is still durable, but possibly not as durable as you might expect. It also raises the question of just how pure sapphire lenses need to be in order for Apple to advertise the material’s use in its phones.

Phil Schiller previously tweeted that reports that the iPhone 7 didn’t include sapphire glass were untrue, and that “Camera lens cover and top of Home Button [are] both Sapphire.”

Apple has something of a checkered history with sapphire production and sourcing. Most notably, Apple ran into problems in 2014 when GT Advanced Technologies, the company Apple was paying to deliver the material, ran into major production problems and wound up declaring bankruptcy.

From average usage, I’ve never had a problem with scratching my iPhone camera lens. Still, it would be interesting to see more tests measuring the exact hardness of these sapphire components.

Via: The Verge