Sapphires, according to a recent article from Technology Review, may become a viable material alternative to Corning’s Gorilla Glass, which is currently used to manufacture displays for popular high-end smartphones like the iPhone 5.
The material is said to be approximately three times more durable and scratch resistant than Gorilla Glass, and has an overall hardness that is second only to diamond. Where sapphires appear to be viewed less favorably, unsurprisingly, is in the area of cost. Compared to Gorilla Glass, which is priced in the $US 2-3 range, a single sapphire sheet will cost smartphone manufacturers more than $US 30 per device. In a couple years time, there is a chance that that price would drop to $20 USD, although by then some may still find it unreasonably pricy compared to the cheaper alternatives available.
Eric Virey, an analyst from Yole Developpment, acknowledges the unappealing aspect of the additional expense, but believes the manufacturing costs will decrease as a result of technological improvements and increased competition. GT Advantages, a technological firm from New Hampshire, is also a notable proponent of sapphire-based displays, and has plans to develop ultra-thin sapphire sheets that are applicable to a wide variety of mobile devices.
Until further development takes place, and until sapphire costs are trimmed to an acceptable level, glass displays will likely remain the basic go-to choice for smartphone makers. Early this year (January 2013), Corning introduced Gorilla Glass 3, which received positive reception and is claimed to be twice as sturdy as its predecessor.