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Device construction also matters. Sapphire glass can shatter because it is not flexible. If a smartphone features a sturdy enough frame, it may prevent a sapphire glass screen from shattering when dropped.
It’s important to note that Corning’s Gorilla Glass also benefits from technological advancements. New versions of Gorilla Glass can survive a 1.6 meter fall onto a rough surface 80% of the time. Unfortunately, Gorilla Glass is still susceptible to scratches. Corning’s new Gorilla Glass SR+ is both durable and scratch resistant.
Sapphire Glass Costs More than Gorilla Glass
Cost is the main factor preventing sapphire glass from adorning the iPhone. At its current price, sapphire glass costs five times as much as Gorilla Glass. Manufacturing advances, such as reusable crucibles, may reduce the cost. Even with these improvements, sapphire glass would still cost three times as much as Gorilla Glass.
Future iPhones Probably Won’t Use Sapphire Glass
The future of the iPhone is unclear. As material technologies continue to evolve, Apple will be forced to make some hard decisions. They can’t always go with the best material. Apple needs enough components to construct almost 100 million iPhones. Prohibitive costs and huge demand make it difficult for Apple to get everything they want. For example, Apple took years before they could offer an OLED iPhone display. No manufacturer could scale to meet their demand. Given that sapphire glass takes a long time to manufacture, Apple will probably avoid the material. There’s simply too much uncertainty involved in the process.
Shortly after launching Gorilla Glass 5, Corning followed up with Gorilla Glass SR+. This new material offers the shatter resistance of Gorilla Glass, with the scratch resistance of sapphire glass. Additionally, the material features favorable optical properties, providing greater brightness. This saves battery life on mobile devices.
Although the cost of Gorilla Glass SR+ is unavailable, it is intended for use in wearables. This indicates that Corning assumes the price is too expensive for most smartphones. It’s possible that Apple may want something special for the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. The rumored iPhone 8 or iPhone X will carry a hefty price tag. If Apple was willing to splurge on sapphire glass for the iPhone 6, they may opt for opulence with the next iPhone. I expect Apple to use this material in future Apple Watches. They may even use it in future iPhones.
Given the available information, my best guess is that the next iPhone will use Gorilla Glass 5. It may feature an all-glass construction similar to the iPhone 4, but with a much sleeker and sophisticated profile. That said, Apple is still capable of surprising people, despite the prevalence of rumors. If the next iPhone is to have glass on the front and back, Gorilla Glass SR+ will prevent it from scratching.