So far, on the iPhone, Apple’s single use for sapphire glass has been as the the cover for the iPhone 5, 5s and 5c’s camera. It’s harder and more resistant to scratches than the previously used tempered glass. But, today, a patent revealed by AppleInsider shows that Apple has discovered further uses for the ultra-durable material.
The chief use for this glass – as seen by Apple – is as a screen cover. i.e. Essentially replacing the current Corning Gorilla Glass on the front of your iPhone. Manufacturing and fixing it to other materials is seen as the biggest challenge for this, but the benefits of using it make it worthwhile overcoming those challenges. Sapphire glass isn’t just harder and more scratch resistant, it’s also a good heat spreader. Apple could attach the sapphire glass to a processor to dissipate heat generated by the chip.
As mentioned already, sapphire glass isn’t an easy product to manufacture with. Using it as a front cover would require a different manufacturing method to ensure that it sticks on the surface and attaches to the rest of the device. Part of a solution would be to creating apertures within the glass, then pouring in a substance with a lower melting point than the glass (plastic or metal). Using those points to weld it on to the phone/device.
The aperture formed in the substrate may have one or more securing features to help hold the second material within the aperture. For example, the aperture may have one or more tapered sidewalls. Alternatively, or additionally, the aperture may have a notch or step in one or more sidewalls. In still other embodiments, an interior surface of the aperture may be threaded or include a lip or protrusion that serves as a securing feature. It should be appreciated that other securing features may be implemented and, further, that multiple securing features may be used in conjunction.
It’s clear that Apple isn’t going to be relying on Corning forever to build its iPhone glass panels. Instead – in typical Apple style – it’s designing its own glass. This patent revelation along with the news recently that Apple is building its own sapphire glass manufacturing plant in the States would suggest Cupertino sees a big future for the material. Whether the development is far enough on in its development to use in the next iPhone is yet to be seen, but it could be the future of Apple devices. As a side note: Sapphire glass would be a perfect material for an iWatch.