If there was one notion GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT) emphasized more heavily than anything else during the 2013 Asia Mobile Expo (May), it’s that the application of sapphires in mobile devices will continue to grow more widespread as the materials’ manufacturing costs go down. The sturdy smartphone display from GTAT, which is composed almost entirely of sapphires, turned out to be one of the biggest exhibition highlights due to the many benefits it promises for future mobile devices. With increasingly more smartphone manufacturers beginning to explore applying the crystalline element in their products–whether it is for enhancing the overall durability of a display panel or adding an extra layer of protection to fragile mobile components–GTAT reckons that it will only be a matter of time before sapphires become a truly mainstream item within the industry.
The conventional glass materials that are used in most smartphones devices, granted, are generally cheaper and much less difficult to produce; Where they have mostly been criticized, and what sapphire-based materials are ultimately designed to resolve, though, is the relative ease with which their surfaces can be scratched or broken. As has been mentioned in various notable scientific reports, a sapphire material possess an overall sturdiness and resilience that is second only to diamond, and boast an impressive hardness rating of “9” on the Mohs scale. Its compositional strength, while not perfect, is approximately three times that of any typical “steel-based” glass structures, according to a recent report from the Taiwanese tech blog, Technews. The general resilience associated with sapphires, on the one hand, will allow almost any ordinary smartphones devices to become immune to careless accidents or major impacts; What’s more, it will give a consumer an extra sense of security when it comes to handling his or her precious handheld device, and, more importantly, protecting it from physical harm.
In large part because of factors such as high manufacturing costs, sapphires are traditionally passed over by the mid to low end manufacturers in favor of cheaper, slightly less durable alternatives. GTAT, along with various other sapphire proponents, believe that things will gradually change for the better following the improvements to technology, the increased recognition of sapphire’s merits within the industry, and the general reduction of the materials’ price. Apple is currently already known to use sapphires to protect the camera component in the iPhone 5, and may eventually begin employing the crystalline material in a variety of other major products, including the much-talked about iWatch device and the iPhone 5S. Smartphones makers such as Vertu and Motorola, it is worth mentioning, are also planning to eventually apply sapphires to their smartphone displays in the near future.
As of this moment, sapphires panels make up approximately 25% of the sapphire industry’s $1 billion USD revenue. It is predicted that by 2018, the amount earned by the sapphires intended for smartphones will exceed $3 billion USD.