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Smartphones with sapphire screens coming to a store near you (VIDEO)


A close-up of Kate Middleton's engagement ring, a blue sapphire and diamond ring that originally belonged to Diana, Princess of Wales.


Arthur Edwards

Truly scratchless smartphones may arrive on the market this year due to advances in synthetic sapphire manufacturing, MIT Technology Review reported.

GT Advanced Technologies and Rubicon Technologies in the United States, Monocrystal in Russia and Sapphire Technology in South Korea are all developing methods for manufacturing sapphire that could make it cheap enough to use for smartphone screens, MIT Technology Review reported.

“I’m convinced that some will start testing the water and release some high-end smartphones using sapphire in 2013,” Eric Virey, an analyst for the market research firm Yole Développement, told MIT Technology Review.

Synthetic sapphire, used as transparent armor on military vehicles, is three times harder and three times more scratch resistant than Gorilla Glass, which most smartphone screens are currently made of, reported.

“You can’t scratch sapphire. The only thing that’s harder than sapphire is diamond,” Jeff Nestel-Platt of GT Technologies told Pocketnow. “Sapphire will shatter… but because of the inherent strength of the material, that shatter point is better than what you’ll see with Gorilla Glass.”

Apple Inc. already uses sapphire to protect the camera on its iPhone 5, MIT Technology Review reported.

While a sapphire smartphone screen, which currently costs about $30, will never be as cheap to manufacture as a Gorilla Glass display, which runs less than $3, better technology and competition could cost push costs below $20, according to Virey.

One drawback to sapphire screens, according to Quartz: They could be heavier.

According to Quartz:

This might not matter if its superior hardness means it can be thinner than existing screens, but an otherwise identical screen made of sapphire would be about 60 percent heavier than Gorilla Glass.

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