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Sapphire screens just one step down from diamond-hard (pictures)

Displays made from the second-hardest compound on Earth would be extremely hard to scratch or break. CNET checks out a sapphire screen prototype.

Jessica Dolcourt
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Commerce & Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Commerce, How-To and Performance Optimization. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
Jessica Dolcourt
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1 of 7 Sarah Tew/CNET

Sapphire screens: Almost diamond-hard

BARCELONA, Spain--Want a truly unbreakable cell phone screen? Lab-grown sapphire could be the screen of the future. In this demo unit we saw at Mobile World Congress, a sapphire cover screen is glued on top of the phone's glass screen. Despite the double layers of material, the phone was still just as responsive.
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2 of 7 Sarah Tew/CNET

A rock and a hard place

I hit and dragged a piece of craggy concrete repeatedly against the screen.

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3 of 7 Sarah Tew/CNET

Scratch attack

What happened? Nothing. There wasn't a crack, scratch, or sign of any pitting, just a tiny amount of concrete fairy dust that wipes away with your thumb.

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4 of 7 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Compared to Gorilla Glass

The thin wafer of reinforced Gorilla Glass (right) wasn't as lucky. Although the chemically strengthened Gorilla Glass wards off cracks, glass isn't indestructible.

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5 of 7 Sarah Tew/CNET

Sapphire's many forms

Chinese company Zhejiang Shangcheng Science and Technology shaped both the smartphone screen (left) and the jewel with sapphire supplied by GT Advanced Technologies.

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6 of 7 Sarah Tew/CNET

Screens and things

Zhejiang Shangcheng Science and Technology showed off a range of possible forms and applications at Mobile World Congress 2013.

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7 of 7 Sarah Tew/CNET

No joke

It took 16 days to grow this 250-pound block of sapphire. From here, the boule, as it's called, can be shaved, shaped, polished, and sliced into fine wafers.

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