Will Apple extend sapphire screens to iPads, even at a cost to its margins? [Poll]


While it’s not yet certain that the iPhone 6 screen will get a sapphire layer, that’s certainly the way things look at present – providing a screen that is pretty much impervious to scratches (though no more resistant to breakage).

The problem with sapphire is it’s about ten times as expensive as Gorilla Glass. There have been vague suggestions that new manufacturing techniques might narrow the gap, but it still seems likely that Apple will have to sacrifice a bit of margin to introduce the material.

That’s likely a cost the company can afford, given the marketing benefit of an effectively scratchproof screen. But will we also see sapphire screens on iPads … ? 

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If I’ve got my sums right, an iPhone 5S/5C has a total screen area of 4,656 mm2 while an iPad Air has a total screen area of 28,690mm2. That’s more than six times the surface area, and thus six times as much additional cost to absorb.

Will Apple reserve sapphire as an iPhone-only feature, in the same way it limited Touch ID to the iPhone 5S while the iPad Air did without? Or will it take the hit and introduce the sapphire layer across iPhone, iPad mini and iPad Air? And just how big a deal is sapphire to you anyway?

Let us know your views in the poll and the comments.

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  1. Anderson Barcelos - 9 years ago

    Absolutely NOT! Margins RULE!

  2. We are not going to see sapphire used on iPads, nor iPhones. It is exclusively for the iWatch.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 9 years ago

      I’m aware you’re of that opinion, Israel :-)

    • Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 9 years ago

      This seems really unlikely to me (that they will use sapphire glass for the sports/health band they are developing). Sapphire is neither flexible nor light, the two main criteria for a screen that you wear on your wrist.

      The only way they will use sapphire for the wrist band is if they do a classic “watch” type band similar to Samsung’s and Pebble’s and all the rest (and similar to old-school “wristwatches”).

      I doubt this will be the case at all and I think most people would consider such a product a distinct “fail” by Apple. I’m expecting something smaller, lighter, and more similar to a slap bracelet than a “watch” per se.

  3. Lee (@leemahi) - 9 years ago

    And iPad made of sapphire sounds expensive.

  4. Tallest Skil - 9 years ago

    Where’s the “they’ll drop their margins only if it’s better for the customer” option in the poll?

  5. dcj001 - 9 years ago

    “That’s more than six times the surface area,”

    This is accurate. Good job in not saying that the iPad is more than six times larger than the iPhone 5/5S, Ben.

  6. ron837192 - 9 years ago

    I think Apple might if it really meant for a much better user experience. However, phones are carried in pockets and purses and are frequently rubbing against keys, etc. Also, most people don’t have front covers for their phones, but do with their iPad. Sapphire seems like a nice addition for a phone, but overkill for an iPad.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 9 years ago

      I think that’s a reasonable argument. Personally I have a screen-protector on my iPhone but not on my iPad for much that reason.

  7. jrox16 - 9 years ago

    Something people need to understand and consider is that much of the reason a screen breaks when a phone hits edgewise or anywhere other than on it’s glass face, is because of micro scratches on the glass. These scratches weaken the surface of the molecular structure which when shocked can then break across those scratches and spread more breaks instantly after that initial break. So a screen which cannot be scratched would in fact be more break resistant.

    • Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 9 years ago

      Sapphire glass is also supposed to be much more shatter-resistant than Gorilla glass from the get go as well. So there’s that too.

      Corning is the only entity on record as saying that sapphire glass is *less* shatterproof, and they have a built in bias so …

  8. scumbolt2014 - 9 years ago

    Neither. IMO Apple has a better use for sapphire than screens.

  9. Dafty Punk - 9 years ago

    iPhones get stuffed in pockets, and in general can be used in a manner that leads to screen scratches. Granted you can still scratch your iPad screen, but it’s general usage doesn’t put it in a position to get scratched as often. (most cases protect the screen when not in use).

  10. Bill Martin Boy - 9 years ago

    It’s not just the cost of the material in the iPad but there would be many more failures in that large of piece of sapphire. I know they have perfected the process but still the cost would be way to high and there is really no need for it on the iPad.

  11. Apple is too cheap. They’ll squeeze as much profit as possible.

  12. Mark Carabin - 9 years ago

    I’m not sure if sapphire will be used on iPhone 6. I think even before an iPhone, we’re going to see sapphire glass used to cover the iWatch. Watch faces scratch so easily because they’re always exposed on your arm I just got a Pebble slick wrap cover today for this very reason. I think a sapphire coating, combined with the hybrid e-ink/LED screens that Apple patented a while back will be big selling features in durability and battery life with the iWatch. Once that tests well, and manufacturing costs start to go down on sapphire as Apple perfects it’s processes, we’ll see bigger sapphire screens on other products, starting with the iPhone, and quite possibly moving up the line from there. I’d guess that could be one of the “s” features of the iPhone 6s actually.

  13. Mark Granger - 9 years ago

    Unless they make an iPad small enough to put in your pocket with your keys, there is little need for a sapphire screen. It would be better to invest the money in other improvements like edge to edge curved glass screens.

  14. zubeirg87 - 9 years ago

    I’m also of the opinion that iPhones generally speaking are subject to rougher handling than iPads. iPhones are in pockets which other objects also share. Besides sapphire’s main benefit is scratch resistance, not toughness. And as matter of fact most iPads are covered when not in use, as opposed to iPhones, which tend to be bare-screen most of the time for most people. Hence sapphire is more important on iPhones than on iPads. Furthermore the cost of sapphire will be too high on iPads due to the much larger screen.
    But let’s not forget that as far as I can recall Apple have patented ways of making glass and sapphire laminates. So it might be a way of having the best of both worlds as to what concern the iPad.

  15. Manuel Tomasi - 9 years ago

    You also have to keep the additional weight in mind. Sapphire is quite a bit heavier than gorilla glass (I guess more than 50% heavier). Especially for a weight sensitive device like a tablet this is something to consider.

  16. Richard Getz (@RichGetz) - 9 years ago

    YES! Sapphire will be the new BUZZ word. Do you want a plastic phone/iPad, or sapphire one? C’mon that’s easy marketing.

  17. Ilko Sarafski - 9 years ago

    Well, if we follow the patern that S’s are usually the breakthrough for iPhone brand, maybe 6S will hit sapphire? Yes, we see the factory and so on, but after Maps (even if that was software mistake) I think Apple is taking more time of consideration… about their moves, to say the least. So in that matters, I believe that, yes, we will see sapphire, it’s a matter of time to go onto the next level. The same as Gorilla glass 1, 2, 3 and so on. About iPad – I believe we’ll see it (only if before that acceptance of sapphire isn’t left behind by something newer, even better), but no earlier than iPad Air 3 (if we assume that iPad Air is 1).
    We all know that iPad follows iPhone (as phone being the main product/main margin maker), so in 2 years they’ll find a cheaper way to produce sapphire or some mixture of new components?
    Good article Ben! :) As usual.

  18. Kirre (@Kirjusha) - 9 years ago

    The problem with current Guerilla Glass isn’t the glass,but the oleophobic coating which isn’t as scratch resistant as the actual glass. My current 5s is full of minor scratched after two months of use with really good care. How will this issue be addressed with the possible sapphire screens?

  19. Nick Pryor (@nickpryor) - 9 years ago

    For all of you doubting whether Apple is planning to use sapphire screens on the iPhone 6 (Israel Anderson, Mark Carabin, etc): do you *really* feel qualified to bet against Mark Gurman’s reporting for 9to5 Mac?!

    Don’t kid yourselves that you have anything like 9to5’s insight into Apple’s business plans. Do *you* have reliable contacts within Apple? What about their consistent track record of reporting on future developments?

    If Mark/9to5 has indicated that Apple is going sapphire, then it takes some big cajunas and/or staggering naivety to think that you know better…!

  20. Jason Piebes - 9 years ago

    No, simply because the usage is different. An iPad is not used like an iphone; in and out of pockets and bags, and being used and held in the hand while walking or running. You have a flip cover for the iPad, no such thing for an iPhone.


Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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