Would you pay $30 more for a strong, scratch-resistant screen?

Would you pay $30 more for a strong, scratch-resistant screen?

Summary: While there's no doubt that Corning's Gorilla Glass is tough, a screen made from sapphire would be three times stronger. But this strength doesn't come cheap.


Mobile devices seem to have made their way into the hearts and minds — not to mention pockets and handbags — of hundreds of millions of people, and they have revolutionized how we work, rest, and play. But one problem with these devices is their fragility, and no part is more susceptible to damage than the screen. One drop and your Angry Birds playing days come to an end.

But what if you could have a screen that was manufactured from a material so tough that it can be used as transparent armor for military vehicles. Is this something that you'd be willing to pay extra for?

The material in question is artificial sapphire, and according to MIT Technology Review, the falling costs of this material, combined with technology improvements, could make it a competitive alternative to glass.

A display made from Corning's touch Gorilla Glass costs less than $3, while a similar display manufactured from sapphire would cost around $30. But for that price, users would get a display that was some three times stronger and more scratch-resistant than one made of Gorilla Glass.

An alternative that would help bring down the price of a sapphire display would be to laminate an ultrathin layer of sapphire — one that is thinner than a human hair — with another, cheaper, transparent material.

"I'm convinced that some will start testing the water and release some high-end smartphones using sapphire in 2013," said Eric Virey, an analyst for market research firm Yole Développement.

Apple already makes use of sapphire in the construction of the iPhone 5, using it to protect the camera.

Given how important mobile devices have become, and how expensive — not to mention a hassle — they are to repair or replace when broken, I'd be more than happy to hand over the $30 for a tough, scratch-resistant screen.

Topics: Hardware, Smartphones, Tablets

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  • In a heartbeat!

    I would gladly pay an extra $50.00 for a scratch proof screen... I would pay for the chance to have the manufacturer "skin" to be removed in place of vanilla Android, with the chance of updates. All this MUST be offered at retail, with a pre_paid, unlimited, 4g plan. I will never sign a contract again and that bit of stubbornness on my part leaves my choice of handset limited. Contacts are for suckers but as long as the BIG 4 have control over the latest and greatest handset, there "will be one born every minute"...
    • Why would you seek out to pay MORE...

      ...just to avoid a contract? What sense does that make? The only reason to not sign a contract is if you do not plan on using the data plan for the whole period of time. And if that's the case then you're better off just getting a WiFi-only version.
      Michael Kelly
      • ...or if the contracts offered...

        ...don't match the services you want.
        P.F. Bruns
  • Nope.

    On my 4th smartphone and have yet to scratch a screen. Some I use screen protectors, some I have not.
  • Maybe

    I expect 3 - 4 years of use from a tablet, so it would probably be worth it. With my OCD, I would still be cleaning the screen constantly though.
  • $30 isn't what the consumer would pay

    Device makers won't just pass on the sapphire screen at cost and it's unlikely to appear in low-end devices. So you can forget about spending $330 on a Nexus 4. Most likely, it'll find its way into high-end, high-margin devices. Even then, the user will likely pay at least $50 more for a device that includes the $30 screen.
  • If it was on a Nokia phone then yes

    Not if it was an iphone though. Nothing on the iphone is worth spending $30 to protect.
    • Yawn

      Change the record
      Alan Smithie
      • I will if you will

        So, will you?
    • Silly Todd!

      Nokia phones are already indestructible.
    • no Nokia nostalgia

      ((( "If it was on a Nokia phone then yes" )))

      I had a Nokia phone once. That was seven years ago, back when they were relevant.
  • No

    Screens without scratches are very nice to look at, but scratches are barely noticed when the display is lit.
    Resistant glass is overrated, phones unlike watches are set to last 3 maybe 4 years. Other problem for glass is that it breaks, when those mobile phones with shiny screens hit the floor they have a high chance of being destroyed beyond repair.
    I like my safire glass watch but I don't need safire for my mobile phone.
  • glass vs sapphire screens

    3 times as strong, 10 times as expensive? God bless America! Actually I would consider an "otter-skin " type case WHEN the price comes down. That'll be a phone or two down the road though.
    John Kolb
    • Good grief.

      We're talking about artificial sapphire. What makes you think it's going to be cheap to make? The actual lesson here is that capitalism brought you gorilla glass. Ten times cheaper while almost as hard.
  • Wth is wrong with the naughty word filter

    "Your comment contains profanities and will not appear on the site until it has been checked by a moderator."

    Some bollok brain has entered a common word into the database.

    Alan Smithie
    • ...

      Growl. So true. I can't say what I want, and there's no profanity in it.
      • For example...

        "sha-tter" I can't use that word!!
    • I would put in

      the word Smithie.
    • here is a combo that it blocked

      ok place the two words side by side that are "" this is blocked "Proprietary" I separated it by a sentence to show what is blocked. "hardware"

      I use this a lot in electronic conversations.

      Also "GNU Image Manipulation Program" Take the first letter and combine into one word this word is the name of the product that is widely used. open-source software.

      sent message to ZDnet staff that there is something very wrong with the profanity filter and gave a few suggestions on ways to fix such as highlighting offending words and phrases similar to spell-check . giving us the option to submit our post for review or let us rewrite it, or scrap it.

      I spent half a day writing and rewriting 1 post then having to break it into pieces to try and find offending words there were about 1 dozen or so total NONE of them profanity.
  • I don't know about a phone.

    Never had much of a problem but I'd pay for it if they could do it with my GLASSES.
    I've been wearing glasses for 43 years and hate them with a passion. Having high end Astigmatism it's not really fixable with eye operations so Scratch Proof (or nearly) YEAH BABY, bring it on.