Video: all iPhone sapphire lenses scratch tested

By , Oct 3, 2016

iPhone sapphire lens scratch test teaser 002

As you may know, Apple’s marketing boss Phil Schiller recently insisted that rumors of the iPhone 7’s Home button and camera lens not being covered in pure sapphire were false. However, YouTuber JerryRigEverything has found that these parts do leave scratch marks at a level six on the Mohs scale of hardness, which is odd given that pure sapphire crystal should sustain scratches up to a level nine.

Apple on its website states that all of the iPhones it currently sells offer sapphire protection for the Touch ID sensor and iSight camera, which doesn’t explain why these parts appear to scratch more easily than they should.

Could Apple be using a sapphire/glass hybrid or even a normal tempered glass rather than a 100 percent sapphire crystal? That’s what JerryRigEverything set out to find in a comprehensive scratch test video of the iPhone SE/6/6s/7 series.

The sapphire lens on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus show visible scratches at a Mohs six, a seven and an eight (as for the handset’s body, JerryRigEverything’ previous video showed it scratching at a level six, keeping it at par with several other handsets).

The sapphire lens on the iPhone SE also scratched with a Mohs six and seven. The iPhone 6 series showed scratches at a level six or seven on the Mohs scale of hardness.

By comparison, a Tissot watch that uses sapphire crystal for protection scratches at a level eight. Gorilla Glass, a material commonly used to protect the cover glass on high-end smartphones, typically scratches at a level five or six, while plastics shows scratches at a Mohs two or three.

Apple sapphire lenses web screenshot 002

So, why do all of the iPhone sapphire lenses appear to be much softer and scratch much sooner than pure sapphire crystal should scratch? Using the diamond selector tool, JerryRigEverything has found that the iPhone camera lens indeed tested positive for sapphire.

But why then the hardness level of Apple’s sapphire doesn’t match what sapphire should be and are we talking about two different qualities of sapphire crystal here?

Again, the sapphire lens cover on the iSight camera should not fracture at a Mohs six—it should be resilient to at least an eight like the Tissot watch. After examining Apple’s patent for “Sapphire laminates,” it quickly becomes apparent that the Cupertino firm is most likely using a process that results in the creation of thin sapphire laminates.

Here’s an excerpt from the Apple patent:

Sapphire laminates on glass allow creation of sheets of approximately one millimeter or less in thickness. Moreover, in the case of laminating glass with sapphire, the use of glass may provide cost savings over using sapphire, as sapphire is generally more expensive to obtain and/or process than glass. The sapphire laminate provides increased hardness to prevent wear, scratching and/or damage to the glass.

So, instead of depending on pure sapphire crystal, which is pricier and more difficult to manufacture in volume, Apple is actually using a sapphire coating on glass, probably for cost-saving reasons. JerryRigEverything was able to confirm this finding by putting Apple’s sapphire under an XRF machine and a $1 million electron microscope.

iPhone sapphire lens scratch test image 001

I dislike that the camera lens on my iPhone is covered with a thin sapphire laminate on top of regular glass rather than solid sapphire, but it’s good to know this as I’ll be making an additional effort to avoid scratching the lens and the Home button with keys.

So there you have it, the iPhone’s sapphire-covered lens offers a decent protection against scratches, but it’s just not as scratch-resistant as we thought it’d be.

How impure can your sapphire be and still call it sapphire, do you think?

Source: JerryRigEverything

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  • nova voter

    hmmm … not the most honest marketing ever. if all this is true, not cool, Apple. not cool.

  • malhal

    The question is how will Schiller respond to this revelation? Hopefully he has the “courage” to admit he isn’t always right.

    • Jon20

      That is sneaky to do something like that. That’s why I also feel that the new W1 Chip is going to control the media that’s being played into your AirPods.

      • John Smith

        We’ll find out soon enough.

      • malhal

        I’m glad finally someone else thinks the same! It must be for DRM or Apple Music AAC decompression so they can argue it has higher quality than the double compressed regular BT audio.

      • Jon20

        Yeah. At first I wasn’t sure until I noticed that iTunes Terms & Conditions agreement suddenly changed and there was stuff about compatible and/or approved devices. That was a red flag for me because it wouldn’t allow me to update any of my apps until I agreed with the T&C. The only thing I hope they change within the W1 Chip (as an update since it is a Chip and has a lightning port so you can connect and update through iTunes) is to allow for more gestures to control volume so I don’t always have to ask Siri for every little function. I think they’re just forcing us to use Siri for every little thing in order to improve voice recognition on their end

      • Actually that bit in the terms and conditions is fairly standard and has been there for a while. Basically it’s Apple saying that the music you are purchasing is licensed to be used on up to 5 devices (if it’s DRM protected) which is the same as any software purchased from the APP Store BTW, or that if it’s DRM free you can use it on “a reasonable number” of devices.

        Also the terms and conditions say “compatible devices” not approved devices. In fact the word approved only appears 1 time in there and it’s referring to educational institutes.

        Finally, every time the terms changes for the App store you have to agree before you can use it again to download, purchase or update anything. This has always been the case.

        Also as a side note, the W1 chip handles Wireless connection and not gestures or audio decoding or anything else. So that chip will never get such an update. If you don’t like using SIRI BTW, you can also control playback via the Apple Watch if you happen to have one.

      • Actually the W1 chips does 3 things. It handles automatic pairing of devices (so once it’s paired the first time it instantly pairs every time after that), it drastically improves the reliability of the connections to help avoid random cutouts or dropped connections and finally it helps to significantly improve battery life.

        This actually has nothing to do with DRM or anything else as the actual audio decoding is handled by the DAC not the W1. Furthermore one of the benefits on Apple’s new system is that upon pairing them to your iPhone they instantly pair with everything you own. If these headphones only allowed you to play DRM protected music that would really make using them with a Mac to watch youTube a pain and no one is reporting any such issues.

        Finally DRM is decoded when the file is first opened, not when he audio stream is being sent to the headphones which should further negate this concern.

    • Don’t know that I follow you. He said it was sapphire and it is sapphire.

      Since the lens itself is constructed of glass elements at some point you’d literally have to bond sapphire to glass or construct every part of the lens from sapphire. So this should come as 0 surprise to anyone I would think.

      Furthermore we know from the Apple watch that Apple has treated sapphire in the past with a coating that is susceptible to scratches.

      So going off of what we know, Apple had to mount sapphire to glass and that sapphire is traditionally coated with something not super scratch resistant. I guess I fail to understand why this is such a big deal or why Apple “has to be lying” about this.

      • malhal

        Apple says it’s sapphire, the XRD showed it is not sapphire, thus Apple need to change their specification to say sapphire coated glass. Just now it’s is misleading as people expect it to be solid sapphire just like their watch from the jewellers is. It’s like a laptop manufacturer saying SSD in a spec but using a HD/SSD hybrid drive.

      • Technically every single test he performed indicated that we have something that is sapphire. It’s just that the sapphire is laminated to a thin piece of glass. At some point (since the camera itself is glass) this had to happen so it’s not a lie to put a layer of sapphire over a piece of glass and say it’s got a sapphire lens protection.

        If I buy one of those sapphire screen protectors and attach it to the front of my phone does it magically stop being sapphire since it’s attached to glass?

        The only real question here is why is the sapphire scratching? Is it the same reason that the Apple Watch (also sapphire) scratches or is it due to the higher level of carbon contaminates in the sapphire as discovered in this video? That Apple used sapphire is no longer debatable. That’s proven fact now. The real and only question now is, why does it seem to scratch easier.

  • I have some diamonds for sale!

  • Bugs Bunnay

    Falls in line with obamacare

    • Agneev Mukherjee

      LOL LOL LOL… True. Both are disasters.

      • Bugs Bunnay

        Premiums won’t go up. The american people are too stupid to know that! Undirect quote from jonathan gruber, director of the program.

      • Agneev Mukherjee

        The economist?

      • Bugs Bunnay

        Yes that guy. Not to be confused with john gruber.

  • Why is this a thing now instead of when they first announced then saphirre lens way back then? If noone scratched there old lenses then the same one on your 7 should be fine.. Im sure they were scratch tested back then too..

  • stuart

    apples credibility slip sliding away!!! water resistance,sapphire crystal. quality the very thing they are famous for. GONE!!!

    • chicho

      how is sapphire glass a thing now when it was introduced way back on iPhone 6s?

    • What’s wrong with the water resistance? So far all the reports I’ve seen say it’s top tier.

      • stuart

        Water resistance appears to not be covered under Apple warranty!! Its either water resistant or it’s not.

      • Actually that’s not quite true. Water resistant doesn’t mean water proof. The iPhone is rated at IP67 which means that it should not receive any damage if submerged up to 1 meter (or about 3.3 feet) for up to 30 minutes.

        The problem is, it you go diving with it to about 30 feet under the water and it takes water damage how does Apple know what depth you were at? Or if you dropped it in water and left it there over night and it was damaged how does apple know how long you had it there?

        That’s why Apple can’t afford to put water damage as a covered by warranty item. Not because they don’t think the IP67 certification is accurate (in fact most tests seem to indicate that it could have been rated much better), but because anyone could torture test a phone for youTube and then claim water dmg and try to get a refund and Apple would never have a method to prove that the damage happened outside of the rating.

  • What still confuses me about this whole thing is that if there is indeed a layer of Sapphire on top of the glass it should still not scratch at a lvl 6.

    This makes me believe that there is some coating on top of the sapphire that is getting scratched instead of the sapphire itself. We’ve seen this exact same issue multiple times with the apple watch. People have though they scratched the screen many times only to find out later that if they remove the coating the scratches go away.

    Making sapphire thinner and mounting it to a glass surface may reduce costs to produce but it shouldn’t affect scratchability as sapphire is sapphire no matter how thick it is or what it’s attached to.

  • Dao Sasone

    1st. Dam this guy is smart!
    2nd. Apple you just got caught lying lol.
    Please dont downgrade your credibility as low as samsung. Everyone hates to be lied to.

    • So apple said that they attached a sapphire lens to their camera and he discovered that there is sapphire bonded to glass? Sounds 100% like what Apple told us they did (cover their camera with sapphire).

      Second we know from the Apple watch that Apple coats their sapphire in something that scratches easier that it would without it. So assuming Apple is doing the same thing here that they did there it seems like Apple told us the truth. That Sapphire was laminated to the glass of the camera for protection. Not sure how this proves Apple lied. Seems to prove they told the truth IMHO.

      • YaBoyLilMayo

        Na stop trying to defend their lies

      • Do you hope that Apple is lying? Apple said they covered the glass with Sapphire and that has been proven true. Watching the video also proves that they did in fact use sapphire here.

        Isn’t it easier in this case to assume that Apple is telling the truth (since it has been proven at this point) and that either the sapphire is contaminated with carbon reducing it’s scratch resistance (as the video speculated) or is coated in something that scratches as the Apple Watch currently has to deal with?

        Or do you believe that Apple spent billions to become the biggest producer of sapphire, filed all of those patents, has publicly gone on written record claiming it’s sapphire for the fun of Intentionally lying about something that probably costs them 5 cents to produce?

        Personally I find it easier to believe that Apple either messed up in manufacturing quality or is coating it the way they do with their other products than that they decided to save a nickel and intentionally lied to the world about one of the easiest components to test in the phone just to… see if they can get away with it?

        Na man, stop trying to call them a liar unless you have proof.

  • Teddie Danh

    wow this guy is truly a tech god ^:)^

  • Agneev Mukherjee

    It seems that people only put iPhones to extreme torture tests instead of using it fairly…