While Sapphire is the third hardest natural material on the Mohs scale behind diamond and moissanite, it can also be synthesized and that’s what Apple’s done with the lens on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Unfortunately, it’s coming to light that the lenses are scratching easier than expected from the used of such a material.
Apple’s iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus really failing to impress
Tech writers and analysts alike largely expected very little from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. And that is essentially what we got from September’s release. While the fastest and most powerful iPhone that Apple has released it’s not a head and shoulders upgrade over the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus and gives little reason to those that own those 2015 models to upgrade when they can simply wait on what should be a massive overhaul next year with the release of the iPhone 8(?).
In addition to the lens scratching issues that we’ll get to in a moment, the iPhone is getting largely panned for its battery life, which is indeed poor compared to the flagship offerings from LG, Huawei, Samsung, HTC and others according to recent reports from the UK-based gadget testers Which?
Apple’s new Jet Black offering is also racking up complaints. It’s beautiful without question, however, it’s easily scratched and requires a case, though a case on an expensive phone is almost a given these days.
While Apple has finally utilized a dual-lens camera in the iPhone 7 Plus as well as finally waterproofing the iPhone, the iPhone 7 truly is a “ho-hum” offering that is fairly easy to ignore.
So what’s up with the iPhone 7’s sapphire lens?
Apple had briefly explored the idea of using sapphire glass to make up the entirety of the display but that was abandoned due to cost concerns as well as production issues. Presently, the home button and the rear camera lens are made from sapphire glass to avoid scratching. Scratching the home button would make fingerprint recognition nearly impossible and a scratched lens would obviously ruin photos as well as videos.
While sapphire glass certainly scratches less than hardened glass, a report from JerryRigEverything following durability testing suggests that Apple’s sapphire glass isn’t much more scratch resistant than simple hardened glass.
The lens, it seems, scratches at roughly six on the Mohs scale. To put this in perspective, Gorilla Glass scratches somewhere between 5 and 6 on the Mohs scale and is used on most smartphones.
After questioning whether the lens on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus was made out of sapphire glass at all, JerryRigEverything ultimately determined that it was owing to the presence of aluminum oxide on the outer side of the lens as well as other chemical elements that definitively prove that the lens is indeed made from sapphire glass as Apple claims.
However, the same testing revealed that the sapphire glass that Apple is using is chock full of contaminants, namely carbon and silicon that makes it considerably less scratch resistant.
For example, Tissot uses sapphire glass of considerably higher quality in its and is not riddled with silicon and carbon contaminants making them scratch resistant to eight on the aforementioned Mohs scale.
The report was accompanied by a video outlining the problems the company found.
“How impure can your sapphire be and still call it sapphire?” the video asks at the end and that’s a very legitimate question.