Apple issues a statement regarding sapphire protection on iPhone 7 camera lens

By , Oct 5, 2016

Apple sapphire lenses web screenshot 002

Coverage of YouTuber JerryRigEverything’s scratch test of the iPhone 7’s iSight camera lens wasn’t lost on Apple. In the video, the device’s camera lens is shown attracting scratch marks at a level six on the Mohs scale of hardness. That’s quite surprising given both the official iPhone stats webpage and Apple’s marketing boss Phil Schiller insist all current iPhones use sapphire for camera lens protection.

Now, pure sapphire crystal should sustain scratches up to a level nine, so it’s odd that the iPhone 7’s camera lens would scratch more easily than it should. As it turns out, the sapphire “issue” was serious enough to warrant an official statement from Apple.

“Apple confirms the iPhone 7 camera lens is sapphire, and under proper testing conditions, achieves the hardness and purity results expected from sapphire,” Rene Ritchie quoted Apple’s official statement given to iMore.

It essentially boils down to the difference between “scratching” and “fracturing”.

In his full explainer, Ritchie writes:

Fracturing—as opposed to scratching—is what happens when you have something so incredibly thin—unlike the much thicker watch used for comparison—and you apply pressure with no level of control.

Rene’s article basically implies that JerryRigEverything didn’t conduct his iPhone scratch test properly. “You’d have to precisely apply the same level of force, likely to the same thickness of material, to properly do that test,” Rene concludes.

He added this:

The video is fine for what it is, but it doesn’t include the necessary controls and contains enough theories throughout that the ultimate conclusion it reaches might escape people who don’t understand the subject or don’t watch it closely.

Following Rene’s article, JerryRigEverything acknowledged on Twitter that the iPhone’s camera lens is in fact solid sapphire after all though he originally speculated that maybe Apple was using a thin veneer of sapphire over glass and calling it sapphire.

“Just to clarify: the iPhone camera lens IS solid sapphire, not a laminate or glass. Just like I show and explain in the video. Apple isn’t lying,” the YouTuber wrote on Twitter.

As a quick backgrounder, JerryRigEverything’s video seen above shows the iPhone 7’s sapphire lens beginning to show scratches at a Mohs six. The sapphire lens on the iPhone SE also scratched with a Mohs six while the iPhone 6 series showed scratches at a level six on the Mohs scale of hardness.

In comparison, JerryRigEverything scratched the cover glass of a Tissot watch which, too, uses sapphire crystal for protection against scratches. First scratch marks on the watch started appearing at a level eight on the Mohs scale of hardness.

iPhone sapphire lens scratch test image 001

Responding to a question posted on Twitter by a fan shortly following the iPhone 7’s release, Schiller wrote that both new iPhone models use sapphire protection for the Home button and camera lens, just like prior iPhone models.

What’s your take on this topic?

Is Apple telling us a white lie concerning its use of sapphire in iPhones?

Could it be that the iPhone’s camera lens and Home button are not as scratch-resistant as we thought they would be, or are we making too much fuss about the semantical difference between “scratching” and “fracturing”, do you think?

Source: iMore

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  • Rick

    Apple’s official statement: “You’re scratching it wrong”.

    • leart

      the most boring comment ever.. use: ” you’re scratching it right” instead.. just to be a little different

      • YaBoyLilMayo

        -butt hurt fanboy

        Why are u so hurt lmao just because someone proved ur favorite company constantly lies to customers

      • Erick Reyes

        I wonder why are you in an Apple website…

      • Rowan09

        Where was the lie?

      • leart

        butt hurt fanboy, lmao… butt hurt fanboy, lmao… butt hurt fanboy, lmao… butt hurt fanboy, lmao… butt hurt fanboy, lmao… butt hurt fanboy, lmao…

      • leart

        actually a Explosive Note 7 can hurt your ignorant trolling butt… that’s a pain in

      • jalexcarter


    • Donovan

      Underrated comment

      • Timothy

        It’s the top rated comment.

    • jalexcarter


  • diggitydang

    What nobody seems to be saying is whether this is any different than every other iPhone. If they didn’t change the lens from the 6s or the 6 and the 5s etc, then I don’t care. I haven’t heard of scratched lenses being an issue, so unless they just changed it for the 7 and 7 Plus, I don’t have any problem with it.

    • I mentioned that in another thread lol, it should not be a problem now if it wasn’t a problem with the other phones.

      • Rowan09

        And someone will try and make this a scratch-gate. I really don’t get the point of this test because the 5SE and 6 scratched at the same scale as the 7.

      • diggitydang

        Sorry, missed that one, but sounds like great minds think alike!

  • GigaTigga

    Is anyone else really tired of hearing that the tests weren’t performed in an exact testing lab? Can anyone tell me the last time they put their phone in their pocket and the sand inside of it was scratching to the exact standards of testing? Its a horrible excuse from corning about gorilla glass 5, and i really thought apple would give something better than the same old “the test wasn’t performed in a vacuum”. Well I hate to tell them, real world usage isn’t in a vacuum.

    • Tiltasauras

      It’s the pressure applied that’s important. Jerry is applying way more pressure than the sand in your pants will.

    • therealjjohnson

      When’s the last time you took a metal pick and tried to intentionally scratch the lens on your phone?

      • GigaTigga

        If you think its just a “metal pick” you’re missing the point. The hardness picks are designed to simulate materials of similar hardness to other items, such as sand, glass, etc. There are materials as hard as the “metal pick” that your phone will encounter with day to day use, if you’ve ever had anything scratch ever, then you have already experienced this. The point is, we realize its not a scientific test, anyone with eyes (no offense to blind people) can see that this is not a precisely measured interaction between the pick and the phone. This is precisely my point, no one is using their phone in a vacuum, so saying the test is an invalid test in and of itself is invalid, of course, in my opinion. I’m an apple fan boy btw. I’d love for apple to prove him wrong, but saying he didn’t do the test in the most scientific manner he could, doesn’t do it for me.

      • therealjjohnson

        Except a pick and a grain of sand are not alike and that’s not the same type of pressure or situation. Please miss me with that “pick was designed to simulate” stuff. The pick was designed to be a straight piece of metal. And under no circumstance would I take a piece of metal and apply pressure directly to the lens of my phone. I fail to see how that simulates sand.

      • GigaTigga

        So if he found a piece of sand which matched the hardness of the pick, then placed the piece of sand on the lens and rolled it around, scratching it, would that satisfy the “metal pick” part of your discontent with the test?

      • therealjjohnson

        He amount of pressure you can apply with a grain of sand & a metal pick you can hold in your hand and create leverage with is not the same. You can’t get leverage on a grain of sand.

      • GigaTigga

        I’m not too sure if you can or not, if i’m being honest.

      • lolthisguy

        you obviously have no idea what you’re talking about. hardness is resistance to permanent deformation. if the pressure applied is the same with a metal tip or grain of sand, its still the same.

      • You’re right. But if you read the article the consensus is that he didn’t actually manage to scratch the sapphire lens with his pick. The pressure he applied actually caused the sapphire to fracture along the path he applied that fine tip to.

        I’m sure you’re aware of this already but the harder a material is the more brittle it tends to be. When deliberately scratching a fine point with a fair amount of force how brittle an object is turns out to be a bigger deal than how scratch resistant it is.

      • lolthisguy

        He fractured the lens when he lifted it from the iPhone. He said it in the video. In the video, you can clearly see him scratch it and not fracture the lens. Also, pressure is required in order to test hardness.

      • Sorry man, if you watch the video he says (and I quote) “we see something entirely different [versus the scratches on the watch] … this crack here happened as I was lifting the lens out of the iPhone frame. The level 6 and 7 picks definitely did permanent damage, but under the microscope they look like small fractures instead of scratches.” (His words not mine)

        As far as the pressure required to test, that’s only partially true, you can’t scratch a diamond with a razor blade no matter how much pressure you apply. But you can scratch Talc with a razor with almost no pressure at all. The only reason you’d typically apply a fair amount of force to an object traditionally when scratch testing is so that you can get as clean and deep a scratch as possible so that it is easy to see. And the pressure exerted by the fine point of a pic is undoubtedly higher than any normal camera lens would encounter.

        Remember that the finer the point the less pressure it takes overall to deal immense pressure to the object. For instance did you know that an average woman wearing high heals puts more pressure per square inch on the ground beneath those heals than a fully grown male elephant?

      • lolthisguy

        Ahh ok. Thanks man. Pressure=Force/Area. I’m up on my knowledge.

    • Lack of respect for the scientific method glares. Where’s me Ray Bans.

  • Joonyaboy

    Makes sense to me. Just like there are bulletproof glass that can be penetrated by the right kind of bullets

  • Bacillus

    And any water entering the phone will be “wild”/ “uncontrolled” water ? Oh wait, it doesn’t matter anyway. Warrantee applies only in the Lab…

    • You do realize that Apple can’t possible afford to cover water damage under warranty right? The iPhone is water resistant to 3.3 feet for 30 minutes. How on earth do you propose that Apple would test to see if the phone took water damage from being dropped into the deep end of a swimming pool or being in someones pocket while swimming or something for more than 30 min?

      • Bacillus

        Welcome to the World of FEATURITIS, my son.
        Water resistance, scratching, better battery life, improved headphone connectivity – all marketing buzztalk that essentially does not translate to real life usability.

      • Can you list for me the non useful features? Water resistance I would argue is at the top of the list for useful features! Remember the good old days when a simple water spill could ruin your electronics permanently or being in a heavy rain could cause your phone to take damage? Haha, or a child teething on your phone could pump it so full of saliva that it permanently ruined it (true story)?

        Better Battery life and new processor architectures that allow for significantly better performance while saving battery consumption? Isn’t that the exact thing that customers ask for every single year?

        Ask anyone why they don’t use bluetooth and the 3 big reasons are price, poor audio quality and intermittent connections. Granted Apple can’t directly change prices in this market (although they can try to increase the demand which ultimately will drop prices), but they are innovating to fix the other two. Personally I’m really interested in getting a beats headset now and that’s something I wouldn’t have said just a month ago.

        I can go on, but the point is not every feature has to be flashy or new and exciting. Sometimes the best features are the ones that just make daily life that much easier or less stressful. As soon as Apple falls into the trap of feeling the need to release “exciting” upgrades then we are going to have a gimmick war with Samsung on our hands.

        Personally my favorite OS X update was Snow Leopard. Almost no new features, but it was almost half the size, twice and fast and rock solid in performance. I’m sure you would have hated it but for me, it was everything I wanted at the time.

  • Rowan09

    Personally I really don’t care. People should worry more about scratching the screen instead of the two smallest areas on the phone.

  • steven

    I dropped my iphone 7 plus from the top of the shower caddy in a hotel room on to a stone shower floor. no scratches, dents, cracks. I don’t care what it is, it did its job.

    • steven

      (for the record, it was in the shower with me after spending a long run in my Camelbak w/empty Gu packets

      • nova voter

        sure it was haha

  • armyk

    As far as I saw. The “problem” is that sapphire layer is thin and breaks when they push hard, this does not represent scratch test, but more like break test. Those scratches are actually broken sapphire, not scratched one. So if they would you scratch with the tools and not push like maniac he would get the same result as on the watch.

  • askep3

    why would they cut costs for something like this

  • Chang in Charge

    They need to issue a statement regarding cellular connectivity issues on the iPhone 7.

  • Bugs Bunnay

    Explanation: CHINESE SAPPHIRE!

  • Stoffsprenger ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    Oh how I love these first world problems!

  • Ernie Marin

    My question is, do you plan on buying a phone just to scratch it or to actually use it, because considering that for 8 years the iPhone has been almost the same price yet gets upgraded almost at every model, I honestly don’t care is the glass is Sapphire or cheap crystal from around the corner. It still a very affordable phone considering all of it’s features.

  • Dao Sasone

    As stated in the video, real sapphire is supposed to be around 9. Lens was at 6. Why not state its sapphire plated.

    • The simple reason is that the harder something is the easier it is to shatter (think glass hitting the floor vs a rubber ball). It’s super easy to scratch rubber with a fingernail but you’d be hard pressed to scratch a glass plate with your finger. It’s the same thing here. Sapphire is very easy to break but very hard to scratch. By pressing with a fine tipped tool as hard as he did he actually caused the Sapphire to fracture under the tip.

      In real world usage the sapphire should be much more resistance to scratches from sand and stuff in your pockets and the glass should help make it stronger as well. But another thing to think about is that laminating sapphire to glass doesn’t make it any less sapphire than buying a sapphire protection sheet and attaching it to the front of my phone. Sapphire doesn’t stop being sapphire when it comes in contact with glass.

      • Dao Sasone

        Lol you’re missing the point. Why didn’t apple say its sapphire plated as i mentioned. Just like 18k or 24k gold. They need to advertise it right. Other wise its false advertisement. Same shit as lying if you ask me.

      • Ok let’s say it wasn’t sapphire plated and that they took the exact same sheet of pure sapphire and laminated it directly to the glass exterior of the lens. Would that magically have made the sapphire more pure? Or is the Sapphire somehow only pure if it never comes in contact with glass?

        Apple only claims that the camera lens is protected by a sapphire cover. The fact that they chose to mount it int he way that they did is secondary. They did 100% what they claimed. No false advertising here.

      • Dao Sasone

        Lol you’re funny. Any mixtures of any element of course becomes impurity. Apple only file a patent regarding the production procedure and the average joe never cks on that. They never stated anywhere along the line that it not 100% pure sapphire. That its blended with glass. So that is false advertisement. But believe what you want.

      • You have an interesting definition of mixture my friend. If Apple stated that they somehow blended Sapphire and glass then they would be lying. As far as I know you can’t even bond Aluminum oxide and Silicon dioxide (at least not in any way that retains their individual properties) in a chemical mixture.

        If Apple claimed that they made a lens of Sapphire and used it to cover the camera lens they would be telling the truth. I’m still not sure why you hate the idea that Apple laminated the sapphire to a piece of glass? Or do you just want Apple to be seen as the villain here? If they had laminated it directly to the lens (also glass) it wouldn’t be repairable should something happen without replacing the entire camera which would be significantly more expensive.

        Also, Sapphire is a lot harder to work with when it is in thin sheets. Not only is it very brittle but it is hard to cut as you can imagine being as hard as it is. Turns out that laminating it to glass allows you to retain transparency while having a base material that can be cut to exact specifications to mount inside a phone housing. Which coincidentally enough is important especially when water proofing comes to play and things need to be as exact as possible.

        Again, there are a lot of reasons to mount sapphire to glass, it also supports the overall structure as glass is more resistant to shattering than sapphire. But to say that the second you mount sapphire to glass you’re created a mixture of elements and are marketing a fraudulent product is actually rather hilarious. Makes me think I should tell people that the walls at my work are no longer pure concrete since we painted over them and that they are now good to go to put a nail in it to mount that picture 😛

        Sorry my friend. You’re trying to make a case out of poorly argued semantics and it just isn’t going to work. You can want Apple to be a villain all you want, and I’m sure that you can find some stories to defend that narrative but this sadly for you isn’t really one of them.

  • It shouldn’t be that detail as to how a person should scratch their lens and what level of pressure should be applied, and different scientific terminology used to explain the process of proper scratching. At the end of the day, in the everyday use of ones phone and getting possible scratches on the lens isn’t done with a certain amount of pressure applied consistently, it’s usually a mistake or accident. So if the lens still scratches under those conditions because someone who “accidentally” scratches their lens isn’t applying the correct pressure when “accidentally” scratching their lens doesn’t makes sense.

  • Dj Stef

    The guy tested the iPhone camera lens under an electronic microscope and showed to have impurities and that the top part had more of the sapphire content while the back side more silicon (glass). Wtf is apple talking about? Liars. Plus he showed the patent with the sapphire laminates. I agree tho that he may have been scratching it too hard in relation to the thickness of the lens. But still a $1million electron microscope doesn’t lie! It is NOT PURE SAPPHIRE PERIOD!

    • If I buy a pure sapphire protector cover for my iPhone and attach it to the glass screen of my iPhone does it stop being sapphire because it’s touching glass? As stupid as that question is, that’s essentially the argument people are making here. Apple bonded a sheet of pure sapphire to a sheet of glass. Why? Well, although Sapphire is a lot more scratch resistant than glass, it’s a lot more prone to shattering. laminating sapphire to glass theoretically gives you a material with all the shatter resistance of glass with the scratch resistance of Sapphire.

      So no, Apple didn’t lie. Whether their pure sapphire protection was mounted to a thin piece of glass in the housing or directly to the glass on the camera lens, the fact remains that it is still pure sapphire.

      So yes, it’s pure sapphire. period.

      • Dj Stef

        are u ok buddy? the lens as a WHOLE is NOT pure sapphire. ONLY the TOP part is. the EM proved that. swallow it and ur apple pride please…

      • LOL, you are right. As a whole entity it is not pure sapphire. HOWEVER, there is a layer of pure sapphire mounted to a sheet of glass (for a number of reasons) and that layer is what was being called into question. Is there a layer of pure sapphire covering the camera? Yes 🙂 Is that 100% pure Sapphire layer mounted to glass? Yes 🙂

        Here’s the problem. Let’s pretend that that same piece of sapphire wasn’t laminated to a piece of glass held in place in the iPhone housing. Let’s pretend that it was instead laminated directly to the lens of the camera (which happens to be glass as well), would you still say that the pure sapphire covering is magically impure because it was attached to the camera lens and that the camera lens as a whole is not pure sapphire? What are you hoping for? That Apple would make a 7 element lens of nothing but sapphire?

        Sorry but in this case there is no pride for me to swallow my friend. Apple did 100% what they claimed. They covered their GLASS lens with a layer of Sapphire. Whatever methods they chose to use to cover their lens with it were or how they mounted it in place, the fact remains; Apple put a layer of pure sapphire over the camera.

      • Dj Stef

        jesus u sound worse than steve jobs. listen, first the camera has its own lens. that obviously cant be made of sapphire… the COVERING however is 1 piece composed of 2 parts: a backside which is “100% pure” glass, and a frontside which is “100% pure” sapphire… end of story. and i think the sapphire part is thinner than the glass part? cant remember the video saw it when it was released. stop backing up Apple like its some Messiah, go endorse something else bro thats “100% pure” legitimate 😉

      • Hahaha, almost think that could be a compliment. And no I don’t back up Apple 100% as if they were some Messiah. I’m actually in chat right now with them working to get some issues resolved after finding more bugs in one of their applications. Apple makes plenty of mistakes and I make no effort to hide that.

        But in this case I’m honestly baffled by the point you are trying so hard to make. Is there a piece of sapphire over the camera? Yes! Is it pure sapphire? Yes! Is it mounted to the glass inside the iPhone frame instead of the camera itself for increased reparability? Yes! So… What’s the issue? If you admit it’s a piece of 100% pure sapphire mounted to 100% pure glass and that the sapphire is pointed outwards towards the world to protect from scratches… what’s the issue? Apple Claims that there is sapphire over the camera. This is true. I fail to see how the choice of mounting that sapphire can become such a huge deal.

        In all the iPhones I’ve owned, I have yet to see any of them acquire a single scratch on either the camera lens or the home button while the screens on all of them have received several scratches. You may be horrified that Apple put a thin piece of glass between the camera and the sapphire, but all I know is… it works. (and there’s sapphire protecting my camera)

  • Leslie Bee

    I own many Apple products, but as time goes by, I’m getting more and more disappointed in Apple as a company. It’s now been five years since Steve Jobs passed away, and it shows. 🙁

    The iPhone battery is still under-powered, and Jony Ive has the nerve to say it would ruin the user experience to put in a longer-lasting one. Then they introduce a battery case that even Quasimoto would be ashamed to own.

    They build a MacBook with only one port, that we’re somehow supposed to use to charge it and plug in various USB devices, all at the same time. Not to mention they did away with their wonderful MagSafe plug.

    They’ve done away with the headphone jack, claiming “courage”. The truth is, they seem to now be in the business of making dongles and adapters and replacement chargers.

    I could go on, but let me just repeat myself:
    I’m getting more and more disappointed in Apple as time goes by. It seems to me that Phil Schiller and his marketing minions are now running company. Very sad.