Reports of iPhone 7 Home button and camera lens not covered in sapphire are false

By , Sep 19, 2016

iPhone 7 Wet

I’ve seen a few reports on the web claiming that the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus do not use sapphire crystal to protect the Touch ID sensor on the non-moving Home button and the camera lens. It would make sense for everybody to stop worrying because these reports are simply not true.

According to Apple’s marketing boss Phil Schiller on Twitter, both new iPhone models use sapphire protection for the Home button and camera lens, just like before.

Apple’s official iPhone 7 Tech Specs webpage also mentions sapphire crystal lens cover for the rear camera(s) so there’s that.

In another tweet, Schiller fielded a question from a customer who asked why the wide lens on the iPhone 7 Plus sometimes takes 2x pictures rather then use a dedicated telephoto lens with true 2x optical zoom, as evidenced by the EXIF data from a 2x picture saying it’s digital zoom.

That’s because, Schiller said, the new dual camera system may decided to use the wide angle 28mm f/1.8 lens in certain situations like low-light scenarios or when taking a 10cm macro shot. In such situations, using the wide angle lens with optical image stabilization results in “the best photo” as the telephoto lens lacks OIS.

A non scientific torture test conducted by JerryRigEverything, seen above, has determined that the iPhone 7 body scratched at Level 6 on the Moh scale of hardness, keeping it at par with several other handsets.

However, the sapphire-protected Home button and camera lens also scratched to Level 6 although sapphire can sustain scratches up to Level 9. One possible explanation: Apple could be using a sapphire/glass hybrid rather than 100 percent sapphire crystal.

Still, that doesn’t account for a low Level 6 score.

Some people think it was the coating that scratched, not the actual sapphire material, while others caution that any tests showing the camera lens cover scratched at Level 6 are probably fake or, at the very least, unprofessionally conducted.


Source: Phil Schiller

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  • OWashe

    So who is lying?

    • Probably no one. Did you know that the sapphire screen of the Apple Watch appears to also be susceptible to scratching? Turns out its actually a special coating Apple applies to it that get’s scratched. I’m assuming that Apple is simply using the exact same procedure here.

      From what I’ve heard (and I could be wrong) using a sapphire lens as opposed to glass is a good choice because it achieves an even higher degree of transparency. Combine that with a coating to help cut down glare and artifacts during photography along with minimizing the oil from fingerprints results in the best quality for pictures over the long run.

      When I look at this, I think that Apple is more concerned with the quality of pictures than the people why deliberately gouge razors and picks into their camera lenses to scratch them. Personally I think Apple used sapphire here not to be scratch resistant (or why put the coating on), but to aid in achieving better photos.

      • Perfect reasoning. Not saying that they shouldn’t improve the strength and durability of them. But perhaps this will help keep companies such as LifeProof in business as a lot of those who do a lot of rigorous outdoor activities will want more than just a water proofed phone. Most of us want it OMG-hammer-fell-on-it proof. Those will be the days.

        I’m thankful you came up with this theory. It makes me hopeful that Apple isn’t going cheaper but in fact trying to focus on quality of the photos taken!

    • Gethro
  • malhal

    Once theory is the launch batch used glass because they didn’t have enough sapphire to meet the demand

    • Mr_Coldharbour

      Unfortunately then Apple should not have advertised it as exclusively sapphire. I’m not inciting blame, I’m just saying that one should use their words more carefully if they cannot meet the demand in which sapphire materials are currently supplied at.

      • therealjjohnson

        But that isn’t the case. The person above said it was a theory. His theory. In reality its just the coating Apple uses on top of the sapphire that was scratched by some guy with a metal pick picking at the glass.

  • It doesn’t make sense for Apple to swtich Materials nor for JRE to swap models for a durability test.. He should do a new comparison side by side with the 6,6S, and 7 all in one take no cuts to see which scratches..

  • Article Title: “Reports of iPhone 7 Home button and camera lens not covered in sapphire are false”

    “However, the sapphire-protected Home button and camera lens also
    scratched to Level 6 although sapphire can sustain scratches up to Level
    9. One possible explanation: Apple could be using a sapphire/glass
    hybrid rather than 100 percent sapphire crystal.”

    So, the article title is false, not the reports.

    Look, I’m not a fanboy of Android or Apple, but come on. You’ve got the video, you can see it with your own eyes. So unscientific or not, there needs to be an explanation of what’s happening. Either Apple isn’t being completely honest about the composition of the materials or there’s a coating that’s being affected.Either way, Apple sells it as the sapphire lens cover is more durable, when it clearly isn’t.

    • We’ve seen more than a few reports of the sapphire in the Apple Watch getting scratched and all of those turned out to be nothing other than the coating Apple puts on them (I think it’s supposed to be an anti-glare and oleophobic mix) getting damaged.

      Personally I imagine that’s the most likely explanation here. I don’t think Apple would go to the crazy lengths they have to manufacture sapphire that is weaker and more expensive than the glass they already produce. Nor do I think it’s likely that Apple is trying to pull a fast one and lying through their teeth to everyone. Obviously they could be, but if the past is any indication I think we probably already caught the culprit for the “sapphiregate” last year.

    • rhemy

      Unfortunately some people will always make excuses for Apple. The iPhone 7 is a worse quality product than the iPhone 7.

    • Javier Guevara

      There is nothing that can be labeled “sapphire/glass hybrid”. It simply does not exist. Sapphire is crystalline aluminum oxide, ‘glass’ is by definition amorphous (lacks crystalline structure). You cannot have something that has ‘bit of both’ as the ‘hybrid term implies.
      Hardness test? Sometimes the ‘scratches’ that one see are not of the material being scratched but left over of the ‘scratcher’ itself. Don’t know if there are coatings on these things. It would not make sense from a design point of view to have a camera lens covered by a sapphire glass and then ruin all that protection by adding a coating that can be easily scratched. What would be the point of doing that?

  • n0ahcruz3

    Apple cutting corners to reduce cost and maintain margins. Disappointing..

    • Not necessarily, we know from their watches that Apple has been using real sapphire, but that it ships with a special coating on it that still can be scratched. Perhaps in this case the irony could be that this controversy is because Apple actually went the extra mile and tried to make their sapphire lenses fingerprint resistant and anti-glare for better pictures?

      • n0ahcruz3

        The Watch Sport doesn’t use Sapphire only the Edition and the stainless steel one. I think the point of sapphire is hard to scratch/scratch resistant, however ive read somewhere that they’re brittle so using it for small screens like watch or cover lens is more relevant than using it as cover for display for smartphones.

      • You are 100% right! I only bring that up to show that it wouldn’t be the first time Apple was hounded for a sapphire product that scratched only to find out later it wasn’t the sapphire but a special coating that scratched.

        I’ve heard that Sapphire is incredibly transparent (which is important in cameras) and pairing that with a coating that protects your images from glare and light artifacts while also providing resistance to fingerprints seems like a recipe for great photos. The downside is that it won’t stand up to the customers that only buy phones to stick knives and razors directly into the camera as the coating will scratch like crazy. Good news is that they are a minority, and after they destroy their lens the picture quality doesn’t matter anyways 😉

      • rhemy

        Why would Apple use sapphire glass to achieve perfect optical clarity only to cover the glass with an easily scratched material which if damaged would destroy the use of the camera? I’d think the oil from a finger print would be preferable. You must be part of Apple’s sale team.

  • Mr_Coldharbour

    Very informative video, I especially found the bit about the wear and tear of the lightning port (which I agree with) rather interesting. I also like the manner in which he conducted this video in a very calm and coolheaded way and not like the typical “HELLO GUYS IT’S XXXXXX FROM BLAHBLAHBLAH DOT WHATEVER *yells all the way through the video*” (at which point I just stop the video because all the screaming gives me a headache) that we see from videos nowadays. Very well done.

  • Javier Lopez

    I’d be interested to see a second source (like @MKBHD) make the scratch test video. This can be proven using sand paper too right?

  • Garmac

    I learned something, i didn’t know that there was a “professional way” to do scratch test. I’ll remember that next time i do a unintentional “non professional” drop of my phone to the ground… I’ll be like “Man i should have professionally dropped that phone instead and i could have prevented the scratches….” LOL

  • techfreak23

    Just got my phone but I am not testing the scratch resistance…


    I’ve took the shell of my iphone 6 plus and scraped it on concrete. Not a single scratch on the lens very impressive. That’s why I buy iPhones they have some of the highest quality parts of any phone.

    • rhemy

      the iPhone 6 is a better built phone than the iPhone 7. It actually used sapphire glass. Not this pretend coating that other members have suggested is the case in the iPhone 7.


        Kinda disappointed about the Chinese manufacturers making the camera module instead of sony.

  • seadoc

    The sapphire discrepancy is enough for me to stick with my new Note7… Couple that with the bluetooth earphones (which apparently drop sound on a whim) required to hear music OR charge your phone (as there is no wireless charging) kept me away from Apple, yet again… No way, would have Steve J introduced this iphone7 without wireless charging and the removal of the earplug jack… Totally nonsensical.

  • Ryan Kelly

    Riiiiiight…. Apple says so that means it’s true.

  • roxxr soxxr

    Whoop! Someone is going to lose a few customers over doubly fake sapphire? Hilarious.

  • roxxr soxxr

    Lol, you put a “hold” on my edited comment for including a youtube video? Why are you people so afraid of the truth? JRE latest video shows conclusive results that the lens “sapphire” is a glass sandwich compromised of a small layer of low quality “sapphire”. The revenge of GT Tech.