Kyocera Brigadier durability test: scratching up a sapphire smartphone (Video)

It’s one of the top buzzwords of the year in mobile technology: the sapphire screen. More appropriately called a sapphire crystal display, its remarkability lies not in clarity or resolution or thumb-feel … but in saving us from our oafish, clumsy-handed selves.

Sapphire crystal is hard, see – harder than anything on the good ‘ole Mohs hardness scale except diamond (as we discussed in a piece last year on why sapphire is awesome). And since we don’t generally carry diamonds in our pockets on the regular, the thinking goes that a sapphire screen would be harder than anything that could potentially scratch it – such as the quartz of beach sand, avowed nemesis of glass smartphone displays everywhere.

It’s thinking like this which led GT Advanced Technologies to acquire the sapphire production facility we toured last year, thinking like this which has fueled endless speculation about just why Apple recently bought a sapphire production facility of its very own. But the first sapphire screen-packing smartphone to arrive in our review labs comes not from Apple but from Kyocera, and it comes with sapphire crystal not from GT Crystal Systems, but from Kyocera itself.


It’s the Kyocera Brigadier, a rugged smartphone for Verizon Wireless featuring MIL-STD 810G and IP68 durability, a Snapdragon 400 processor backed up by 2GB of RAM, and a 4.5″ 720p display protected by a single sheet of Kyocera’s very own synthetic sapphire crystal.

The company was so confident about its scratch-resistant display protection that it even sent along a testing kit with the Brigadier –a smartphone torture set of sorts– containing everything from steel wool to coins to knives to honest-to-God rocks, all of it begging … no, daring us to test it.

And test it we did.

kyocera brigadier testing kit

Did we manage to scratch the very first sapphire screen we’ve ever laid hands on? You bet we did – but while you might be disappointed to learn that it took no diamonds to accomplish that feat, you’ll be glad (or at least entertained) to see just how much grief we had to give the Brigadier to earn those scratches.

Join us, then, for our Kyocera Brigadier torture test below. And if you want a refresher on just how synthetic sapphire screens come into being, we’ve embedded our GT Crystal Systems tour down at the bottom as well, in case you’re in a learning mood. Enjoy!

How to scratch a sapphire screen

The making of a sapphire screen

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About The Author
Michael Fisher
Michael Fisher has followed the world of mobile technology for over ten years as hobbyist, retailer, and reviewer. A lengthy stint as a Sprint Nextel employee and a long-time devotion to webOS have cemented his love for the underdog platforms of the world. In addition to serving as Pocketnow's Reviews Editor, Michael is a stage, screen, and voice actor, as well as co-founder of a profitable YouTube-based business. He lives in Boston, MA. Read more about Michael Fisher!