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Mobile World Congress 2014: Virtually indestructible sapphire smartphone screen

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Mobile World Congress 2014: Virtually indestructible sapphire smartphone screen

2:28 /

Sapphire isn't just for jewels. You can also use it to make extremely strong phone displays.

-What would you say about a smartphone screen that's made entirely out of sapphire? Sounds pretty crazy expensive, right? I'm Jessica Dolcourt for CNET here at Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona and this is a demo of a sapphire screen. Now, this isn't the same sapphire jewelry mined out of the ground. That really would be expensive. Instead, companies can actually grow crystalized sapphire which is used today already in many different industrial applications, military, and also in aeronautics like in satellites. What I have here is a demo device that has a piece of solid sapphire display on top of it. So, this is an iPhone 5 and they've actually used some clear adhesive to glue this sapphire screen on top. Why would you want it? One of the benefits is that only diamonds are harder than it. So, it really is not gonna scratch unless you usually rake a diamond ring across the phone screen. To demo this, we've got a piece of Barcelona concrete and I've been plowing away at this phone. I've been hitting it. I've been rubbing the concrete on top of it. There are little dust particles, but that's from the concrete. So you can imagine that if you drop your phone that has this kind of screen on top of it, even if it lands on a pretty hard impact, you can smack this as much as you want, phone is fine, wipes away clean. What we've got in screens right now is very good. Corning Gorilla glass is one of the materials we often use. This is said to be two to three times stronger than that. It is more expensive to make, maybe three to four times more expensive. So, it's not something that you're gonna see on every mobile phone today, even tomorrow, even probably in five years. You are gonna see it on really specialized phones. This will make a lot of sense on a rugged phone, for example, and I'm told that the sapphire screen is already on premium phones like Vertu. Sapphire is also used by Apple in the iPhone camera as a lens cover. So, it does exist today. You're probably wondering if it is good for navigating around and it seems really responsive. Again, this is a regular iPhone with a regular cover and an extra cover on top of it and it is very responsive to my touch. Sounds pretty cool, right? Good look at our future. I'm Jessica Dolcourt for CNET. You can catch all of our Mobile World Congress coverage at CNET.com.

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