Kyocera's Sapphire Shield will let Android phones take on the iPhone 6 in durability

It's no secret now that Apple's iPhone 6 is rumored to come with a resilient and durable synthetic sapphire glass screen, though Apple may not be the only one to release a scratch- and shatter-resistant phone. Thanks to Kyocera's work on what is being branded as Sapphire Shield, various other Android OEMs may be able to source synthetic sapphire glass for their phone's screen as well.

Kyocera's Sapphire Shield announcement comes just about a week after there were speculations that the company has been testing synthetic sapphire panels.

In the past, the cost of manufacturing of sapphire had been too high for use on smartphones. It's unclear what breakthroughs Kyocera may have achieved to mass produce synthetic sapphire for phone use and if Sapphire Shield, which is described as "coming soon," will be available in large enough quantities to satisfy Android manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, HTC, LG, and others.

If Kyocera is successful in this latest trend, it could potentially displace Corning, which had built a name for itself thanks to the use of Gorilla Glass on smartphones.

In addition to smartphones, Kyocera's Sapphire Shield could also be employed on wearables like smartwatches. Sapphire is already being used on luxury watches and on luxury phones like Vertu's devices so this would be a natural extension.

As a material, sapphire is known for its toughness, only beaten by diamond in the natural world. However, because of the chemical properties of naturally occurring sapphire, most sapphire crystals and gems have a blue tint or hue. In the lab, synthetic sapphire is created without those chemicals that contribute to the color, resulting in a clear substance, which would be suitable for clear screens that protect the LCD or AMOLED displays on today's smartphones.

Rumored iPhone 6 sapphire panel put under stress shows no visible damage.

A leaked video claiming to show off what is believed to be the sapphire glass used on Apple's iPhone 6 shows that the device is virtually break-proof and scratch-proof. The sapphire panel was twisted and doesn't break or shatter, even when torsion force was applied.

 

Reader comments

Kyocera's Sapphire Shield will let Android phones take on the iPhone 6 in durability

48 Comments

They would only have patents on a manufacturing process, not the concept of having a synthetic sapphire screen

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It's looking like it was a false claim from the start. 1st because I've been through a basic science class in college and we learned there that synthetic sapphire is grown in a melt down process of Aluminum Oxide in a very hot furnace. Where they use grown sapphire crystal as a catalyst to start the growing process. For this smartphone screen cover purpose, it's grown in boules. Then mechanically cut with diamond blades or lasers into thin slices, before being mechanically ground and polished with the hole for the a power button punched in it!

Obviously those iPhone 6 screens aren't sapphire, since they can be sanded with both emery cloth (7.5 mohs) and garnet sandpaper (6.5 mohs). Yet the emery cloth and sandpaper can't scratch the touch id power button w/ sapphire crystal cover!

You can't patent a material. They probably have the manufacturing process and the implementation process patented.

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The sapphire glass used in phone displays isn't sapphire crystal that is mined. That is way too expensive and limited. Sapphire glass is made using a process that can be patented. I'm not sure if anyone has pattented that process though.

Vertu has been setting up worldwide supply chains and processes for phone screens since the 90s. They were one of the pioneers in the field long before the iPhone 1 was even a twinkle in Apple's eye.

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So I'm confused, is this a sapphire screen protector for Android phones that are already out (which would be cool), or is this them making sapphire displays for future Android phones?

Posted with my Nexus 7 2012 or Moto X via the Android Central App

Really? That would be strange, I mean there are price difference between the two. I don't see a problem if they can find a market segment for themselves.

Until it's on devices, both sides are using nothing but propaganda. TBH we haven't seen anything yet that suggests any significant advantage over something like gorilla glass.

Most glass can actually withstand metal without scratching, because it's harder (it's usually the coatings that scratch, or sand that causes scratched because sand is harder than glass)... and it's side impacts with the weight of a phone that cracks or shatters screens, not flexing or tortion.

Reserve your judgement either way, until we have a production phone with Sapphire glass and can compare directly.

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Until its a product used in every single phone being manufactured then I think corning will be okay

Posted via My Ever-Bloated S4

Is it known for its toughness, or is it known for its hardness? My impression was the latter, which is often counter to the former. Toughness represents resilience, ability to withstand breaking, which usually includes more flex and in the case of something like a screen, a higher chance of being scratched. Plastic, for instance, along with softer things like rubber, are quite "tough," but deform more easily, including scratching. Harder things, like glass, are harder, but more brittle, resulting in less likelihood to scratch or bend or reshape, but more likely to break or shatter.

The impression I got from other articles, and executives within the industry, was that sapphire glass is more resistant to scratching (harder), but at the sizes we're dealing with for phones, it becomes MORE brittle (less tough).

It's essentially a flat synthetic diamond. It's not brittle at all. According to my experiences.
Higher end Rolexes and Omegas have been using sapphire glass for ages because their clients can afford it. My dad's dropped his from quite a height without scratching or denting.

Almost all wrist watches has been using sapphire for ages. It's not a unique thing on watches. And a wrist watch has really thick glass compared to a smartphone, to compensate for the brittleness.

I'm aware it's common in wristwatches, which have tiny swathes of it. Nothing compared to the size of a phone screen. And thicker is exact what phone makers are trying to avoid.

Is your dad's watch the size of a phone screen? I'm well aware of its history in watches. Doesn't necessarily translate to a larger phone screen.

Higher end Rolex doesn't use the same sapphire that phones will use. It is so expensive because it is sapphire crystal that is mined. Sapphire glass is created synthetically because natural sapphire crystal is too expensive and limited.

Hardness=brittle but the MKBHD video showed a lot of flex so perhaps a new method of making sapphire or something totally different.

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Can it protect against a grain of sand that may have found its way into my pocket? That's about the only thing that would ever scratch my screen. If it cannot protect against that I'm not sure it's with the cost vs the current glass screens.

I'm not worried about dropping my phone though I'm sure a lot of people do drop their phones...

I agree. Metal is softer on moh's hardness scale so will essentially never scratch glass. But that won't stop people drooling over sapphire, after all... Apple uses it, it must be superior in every way. Right?

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Yes, sapphire will protect you against that grain of sand that might be lingering in your pocket. Sand scratched glass because it has a stronger crystal structure glass. Sapphire has a molecular and crystal structure that is many times stronger than glass or sand.

Sand and other small particles that may find their way into your pocket or onto your fingertip are harder than glass, any type of glass. The only substance that is harder than sapphire is diamond (at least naturally). So unless you go at a sapphire screen with a diamond tipped drill bit or saw blade it will not scratch. That said, I'll be waiting on the sand vs. sapphire glass demo too.

Yeah, because they're made of Gorilla Glass. Only the camera lense and fingerprint scanner/home button have sapphire glass on the 5s.

"though Apple may not be the only one to release a scratch- and shatter-resistant phone."

sorry, but this is the worst line in an AC article ever...

Unless you were being sarcastic?

I feel like Gorilla Glass is already very great in this regard. Am I missing something? Is it not as good as I thought?

Put some sand in your pocket with your phone and see how great you think even Gorilla Glass 3 is...

Spoiler: It will scratch the heck out of it

Apples screen is not pure 100% sapphire, YouTube has a iPhone 6 taking a scratch test with sandpaper & was scratched instantly with the even the smoothest sandpaper, the tough one shredded the screen with deep scratches. GT Advanced has been selling 100% pure "synthetic" sapphire,no layers like iPhone 6. Anyway you can YouTube the making of the sapphire screens used for many things like LED's, airplane windshield, & screen protectors. Their screens don't scratch even with dust, sandpaper neither. Keys & knives are to blunt to penetrate the smooth surface of even gorilla glass,but razors, sand & dust can easily scratch G'glass & wannabe sapphire screens, but they can't scratch pure sapphire.