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How Apple's Billion Dollar Sapphire Bet Will Pay Off 195

Posted by Soulskill
from the sapphires-now-require-proprietary-connectors dept.
alphadogg writes: "Apple is making a billion dollar bet on sapphire as a strategic material for mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPad and perhaps an iWatch. Exactly what the company plans to do with the scratch-resistant crystal – and when – is still the subject of debate. Apple is creating its own supply chain devoted to producing and finishing synthetic sapphire crystal in unprecedented quantities. The new Mesa, Arizona plant, in a partnership with sapphire furnace maker GT Advanced Technologies, will make Apple one of the world's largest sapphire producers when it reaches full capacity, probably in late 2014. By doing so, Apple is assured of a very large amount of sapphire and insulates itself from the ups and downs of sapphire material pricing in the global market."
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How Apple's Billion Dollar Sapphire Bet Will Pay Off

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  • by zifnabxar (2976799) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @07:29PM (#46819467)
    Rubies are sapphires, just with higher levels of chromium which makes them appear red. Maybe that's why Apple doesn't like them.
  • Re:Well. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Seraphim1982 (813899) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @07:49PM (#46819553)

    Sapphire is hard... 9 on the Mohs scale, and the only substance harder is natural and synthetic diamond.

    Lots of things are harder then Sapphire, particularly carbides and borides. Examples include silicon carbide, titanium carbide, boron (the hardest element) boron carbide, and boron nitride.

    I find it difficult to believe... so...do you have any references that says Gorilla Glass is cheaper and harder than Sapphire?

    No one ever said it was harder, they said it was stronger.

  • Re:Well. (Score:4, Informative)

    by arth1 (260657) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @07:50PM (#46819555) Homepage Journal

    I to am on the Gorilla Glass bandwagon as well, and a big big fan of Corning. But Gorilla Glass is under patent. Synthetic Sapphire has been around since 1902, and it was cheap back then. Sapphire is hard... 9 on the Mohs scale, and the only substance harder is natural and synthetic diamond. I find it difficult to believe... so...do you have any references that says Gorilla Glass is cheaper and harder than Sapphire?

    I'm not the parent poster, but here's a ref [parts-people.com] claiming that Gorilla Glass is indeed both cheaper and far weaker than sapphire.

  • Re:Well. (Score:5, Informative)

    by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @07:58PM (#46819595) Journal

    silicon carbide, titanium carbide, boron (the hardest element) boron carbide, and boron nitride.

    All of which would make a really crappy screen cover.

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @09:00PM (#46819857)

    Hear, hear!

    It seems like most of the IPhones I see have broken screens, but other phones only rarely. It's just a shitty design. Excuse me, I now have to go underground before the Apple fanboys catch up with me.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 22, 2014 @10:57PM (#46820289)
    iPhone glass doesn't go all the way to the edge. The metal ring around the iPhone is the edge, and it absorbs nasty corner shocks just fine. SquareTrade, whose job it is to keep up on this shit (since they pay out the insurance claims) consistently rates the iPhone as less breakable than its Android counterparts.
  • Re:Well. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @01:10AM (#46820655)

    I have a $150 watch that has a sapphire crystal and titanium case. The watch case is significantly scratched and the crystal is not scratched at all. Definitely not bling and definitely practical. And not expensive (the replacement cost of the crystal is $50).

  • by Solandri (704621) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @03:26AM (#46821079)
    Funny that you should bring up a car analogy. In the 1940s and 1950s, as cars began to get faster, more people started dying in accidents. As a result, manufacturers started building the car bodies to be stronger and more rigid. Of course when we started doing systematic crash testing in the 1960s and 1970s, we found out that this was absolutely the worst possible thing they could have done. With a rigid body, the entire force the impact is transferred to the occupants. The car stops immediately, while the passengers keep going... until they hit the front of the car at full speed. The better solution was to design a strong passenger compartment and belt the occupants to it, while the rest of the car was designed to deform and shatter to lengthen deceleration times (decreasing peak acceleration forces) and dissipate energy. Which is actually what a phone with a plastic body and a metal internal frame does.

    Anyhow, I think Samsung and LG are on the right track here. The electronics inside a phone can survive several hundred Gs (you can literally shoot them out of a cannon with little ill effect). The only fragile part is the glass screen. So both companies are working hard to develop flexible screens. The only remaining issue would then be scratching the screen; but most people seem content to put a cheap plastic protector on their screen to ward off scratches.
  • Re:Well. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @04:31AM (#46821285)

    You realize sandpaper grit *is* corundum, right?

  • Re:Well. (Score:5, Informative)

    by gnupun (752725) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @05:02AM (#46821345)
    Sapphire is second hardest material (1st is diamond) known and much more scratch resistant than gorilla glass. This is the best feature of sapphire glass. Check out the youtube video in this article [digitaltrends.com] -- even a concrete block can't scratch the sapphire glass. However, sapphire glass has many disadvantages:
    • *10x more expensive than gorilla glass
    • *1.6 times heavier than gorilla glass
    • *Higher refractive index so it's dimmer and therefore consumes more battery power to get same brightness as gorilla glass. A phone user is very interested in this property.
    • *Not environmentally friendly (energy consumption very high to produce glass)
  • by Wdi (142463) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @06:02AM (#46821521)

    Sapphire is *not* the second hardest material known. Yes, it's written in the linked article, but it is also definitely wrong. It is hard, and it is harder than glass. That is all there is. Besides diamond. many other materials, such as some forms of boronnitride, rhenium and osmium borides, and a collection of carbon/boron/nitrogen mixed compounds are all far harder than sapphire.

  • Not just jewelry (Score:3, Informative)

    by AlKaMo (106874) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @08:24AM (#46822391)

    One of the largest uses for artificial sapphire is supermarket barcode scanners. No one's putting it there because they feel a need to bling-out the supermarket. It's there because any surface that has stuff dragged across it all day, every day either needs to be incredible scratch-resistant or replaced way too often.

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