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

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.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

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.

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