Synthetic sapphire crystals have one big thing going for them: they are fantastically resistant to scratching. That might make them seem like the ideal material for a smartphone display – and we’ve already seen them in luxury phones like those from Vertu – but they’re also not without their problems: they’re expensive to produce, and though they have excellent protection against scratches, they’re still subject to shatter damage. Still, that no-more-scratches business is so compelling that we’ve been following the technology in hopes of a sign that it could one day come to a more mainstream smartphone. As we wait, it’s now come to light that Apple was once approaching the idea of a sapphire-screened iPhone, but ultimately passed.
In a recent interview, Vertu CEO Perry Oosting talked about what other smartphone companies could be doing to establish themselves more as luxury brands. He recalled that Apple already looked into the idea of giving the iPhone a synthetic sapphire screen, and even recruited employees from Vertu to work on the project. Oosting claims that concerns over the ability to produce such screens on the scale needed for the iPhone are what led Apple to abandon the idea.
Still, Apple seems to have come away with some respect for sapphire – it protects the rear camera on the iPhone 5 and could be featured on the home button for the next generation iPhone. That has us wondering if the company’s still keeping the idea of an iPhone with a full-on sapphire display in the back of its head, for the day it finally becomes feasible.