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One of the more vexing issues we have with our smartphones today relates to the durability of the screen; for the most part, they're just not that durable. Even when you protect your phone to the max you can find yourself in a precarious situation where your phone unfortunately drops on the sharp corner of an object only to have the screen completely shatter. While there's still no completely indestructible material that we can yet use on our smartphones to prevent such shattering, there is a new material in production for smartphones (but certainly not new to the world) that can seriously reduce the amount of scratches a phone can take, and that material is called sapphire.

Sapphire is the second strongest natural substance in the world, second only to diamond. By creating a thin layer of glass to fit over our smartphones, sapphire glass could be the very future of our screens. We already see the use of sapphire glass in objects we see today, like watches and even bullet-proof glass. Sapphire glass could be the competition against the other super material that's in the works for being used in our smartphones, graphene.

While I've already delved into the possibilities of how graphene could affect the future of smartphones, it really only addresses how flexible the material is and not necessarily how scratch resistant it is. However, if a device is using a flexible screen it can only be assumed that not only is it able to maneuver around any element in its way, but it is also very durable and won't crack or break easily. But for those who are more interested in keeping the smartphones in their current form without altering them too much - solid, sturdy, and easy to hold devices - then perhaps sapphire glass might be something to spark your interest.

The way the synthetic sapphire glass is being produced is rather simple. The company melts copious amounts of aluminum oxide together, and slowly lets it cool to create a single crystal of transparent sapphire. This isn't a stereotypical dazzling blue sapphire. In order to make a blue sapphire one would need to add titanium and iron (fun fact: if you wanted to make a ruby, you could add chromium instead). This material created out of melted and hardened aluminum oxide creates a clear sheet of glass that is three times stronger than Corning's Gorilla Glass.

At the moment, it also comes at a bit higher cost. While it only takes $3 to make a sheet of Gorilla Glass, it currently takes $30 to make a sheet of sapphire glass. While it sounds like a big jump, you also have to consider how this basically makes the point of screen protector's moot. Zagg shields cost $30, and although they do come with the added bonus of a lifetime warranty it's definitely not as hassle-free as basically having an integrated screen protector that does the same thing.

In this video from Mobile World Congress 2013, a demonstrator shows just how tough sapphire glass can be by using a prototype placed over the original screen of an iPhone 5. The test shows how well the glass works - at first glance it looks like the screen is taking damage and the concrete is leaving dents. In reality, the glass is the one doing the damage and breaking up the concrete hitting it. The residue is simply wiped away with a cleaning cloth - pretty amazing stuff!

The real downside to the sapphire glass is that it's extremely brittle, so although scratches aren't going to be an issue it won't stop your phone from completely shattering if the drop is harsh enough on the device. It's still tougher than Gorilla Glass though, so at least by creating this material you get to keep the traditional design of a smartphone with a screen that can take even more of a beating than what we're currently used to.

I can see sapphire glass being a plus for the people who aren't quite ready to move on to the future of flexible bendy devices, and also for people who despise the feel and alterations that screen protectors sometimes give devices. Personally, screen protectors don't bug me and I think I'd still put one on the device because I'm a paranoid parrot and I have the luck of a black cat standing under a ladder. I am interested to see if this material makes an appearance in our smartphones sometime within the next year or two though, and how it will stand up to devices that opted for the use of graphene.

Readers, what do you think about sapphire glass? Would you rather have a stronger glass and keep the traditional look and feel of a smartphone, or would you rather have the flexibility and durability of a smartphone that uses graphene? Share your opinions with me!

Images via PC World and Digital Trends


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51 Reactions to this post

"Which would you prefer: A scratch resistant screen or a durable flexible screen?"


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Yazzan Shanableh
Yazzan Shanableh Scratch resistant
Preston Purdy
Preston Purdy Scratch resistant
Ben Pierce
Ben Pierce Durable flexible
Shawn Moncrieffe
Shawn Moncrieffe the best of both worlds
Steve Swiger
Steve Swiger I want scratch resistance. I don't need a flexible screen. I don't really see the point behind flexibility. Other than flexing upon impact. Why would you want to intentionally bend your phone. Maybe to show off.
Bobby Phoenix
Bobby Phoenix Scratch resistant.
Jared Burns
Jared Burns Scratch proof I thought they did a good job with the samsung charge
David L Walcott Jr.
David L Walcott Jr. scratch resistant, I keep look at that scratch when the screen turn offs.
Nicholas Riddle
Nicholas Riddle I want a scratch PROOF unbreakable screen. Screw scratch resistant
Aaron Cantu
Aaron Cantu Scratch resistant...
Gary Bowling
Gary Bowling Scratch resistant.
Ian Walker
Ian Walker 100% scratch resistant
Imran Arab
Imran Arab A scratch resistant screen, that's all. Flexible? roll it. put it in your pocket? it sucks...
Stephen Utterback
Stephen Utterback Yes.
George Millhouse
George Millhouse durable...you can always use a screen protector
Anthony Lasam
Anthony Lasam Jus like w/ eyeglasses... BIG difference between scratch-proof & scratch resistant. The right term is *scratch-proof*! :)
Anthony Bailey
Anthony Bailey Scratch resistant
Ale Zuvic
Ale Zuvic For those who ask, the utility of a flexible glass is that it bends so it won't break against pressure. If you drop your phone, the glass blends up to the point of break; with flexible glasses, that point of rupture would be higher so less chance to have a shattered screen. Back on the days of my first iPod (a 5G W/O Gorilla Glass) I used to put the player in the other pocket that where my keys went; I avoided the scratches very well. But the second time I accidentally dropped my iPod touch (my second iPod) the screen just broke very badly. So, I prefer a flexible piece of glass.
Manuel Olivas
Manuel Olivas Scratch resistant
Randy Walker Sr.
Randy Walker Sr. An ultimate true scratch resistant screen so we dont have to use screen covers or cases to protect our phone would be the ultimate goal.
Curtis Owens
Curtis Owens depends on the cost of screen replacements if they were cheap to replace, then shattering wouldn't be so bad. But currently apple costs a ton to replace the screen. Given the fact that there are REALLY good screen covers out there that block scratches and dont do much quality damage to the screen, I will say that flexibility which leads to much better durability is far better than a screen that breaks if it hits the ground. Just 2 weeks ago I witnessed one break on an ipad. Not cool!
Ken Reil
Ken Reil both
Damon Michener
Damon Michener Scratch resistant, every time.
Muayyad Zohair Al Mulla
Muayyad Zohair Al Mulla I don't get it, why do people think flex screen is cool?
Sean McCarney
Sean McCarney scratch resistant
Marshall Crocker
Marshall Crocker http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OawrlVoQqSs
Bradford Jay White
Bradford Jay White I can get a screen protector for scratches I don't want it to shatter.
Denver Garkie
Denver Garkie also sapphire is the 3rd strongest substance in the world, behind diamond, and far behind graphene
Denver Garkie
Denver Garkie graphene is made from 100% carbon, is over 100x stronger than steel, lighter than aluminum, flexible, self healing when exposed to raw carbon and high energy UV, and 98% transparent, also if a layer of silicon is sandwiched with it it will act as a solar cell, extending the battery life of your phone, and slowly charging it at all times http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/matter_energy/graphene/
Emily Maitz
Emily Maitz Scratch resistant. So no need for a screen protector, ever.
James Johnson
James Johnson They should just stop screwing with all these other minerals, plastics, glasses, and just get to the point, just straight up use Dragonscales, that will do it.
Jeff Jones
Jeff Jones Shown in the photo is a preview of the iPhone 6, now in a revolutionary rock-shaped/look case.
Kenneth Maneeley
Kenneth Maneeley Scratch resistant. But they will have to come up with something stronger on the mose scale of 8 or above.so if you get a piece of sand on it it won't scratch. Since glass is a hardness of 7 wich is made of sand. So good luck.
Camar Green
Camar Green You can toss it in your back pocket but what happens if it bends and makes a crease lol... You be SOL
Richard Quintanilla
Richard Quintanilla How about both
K.j. Littlejohn
K.j. Littlejohn scratch resisant..don't want the hassle of putting a screen cover on juuuust right
Justin Batalla
Justin Batalla Human resistant.
Jolly Macwan
Jolly Macwan Scratch resistant
Derik Costa
Derik Costa I prefer a durable flexible scratch resistant screen. Problem solved
David DiPilla
David DiPilla Scratch resistance
Charlie Ebner
Charlie Ebner Scratch and smudge resistance.
Mason Fant
Mason Fant Scratch resistant
Jose Morales
Jose Morales Frankly, I dont see the appeal of flexible screens. What practical use could they have??
Brian Walden
Brian Walden how about both?
Dave Bourque
Dave Bourque durable flexible, scratch resistance is already provided by screen covers.
Jesse A. Reissig
Jesse A. Reissig I would prefer a durable and flexible screen. I would rather live with scratches than have a screen that would shatter.
Kyle Cordiano
Kyle Cordiano Scratch resistant.
Jose Angel Santiago
Jose Angel Santiago Both
Rachael Ruth Anne Goldfarb
Rachael Ruth Anne Goldfarb Scratch resistant
Justin Alan Smith
Justin Alan Smith Scratch resist for sure.
Alfonso Manuel Avalos
Alfonso Manuel Avalos Durable flexible,




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