Never one to shy away from Apple's iPhone design – in fact Xiaomi likes to brag that their devices are built to the same quality, but one-third the price. It looks like they may also be trying out the newest sapphire crystal display covers in a limited number of premium smartphones that may launch by the end of this year, according to the South Korea's Electronic Times.
According to the report, Xiaomi has hooked up with South Korean manufacturers to produce the sapphire covers. There were no sources cited in the article or specific S. Korean suppliers – only that 50,000 covers were ordered. Xiaomi declined any comment.
Sapphire crystal – yes, it is a synthetic crystal and grown in a laboratory to get the 'crystal' clear look. Naturally mined crystal has many trace elements that cause the beautiful blue, purple or yellow hues that look so pretty in our jewelry, but not so much on a smartphone display – so the labs 'grow' our owned with aluminum oxide. Sapphire is second only to diamonds in hardness, so it makes a great substance for the display on a phone that will be slid in and out of pockets or purses with change or keys banging up against it.
The benefits of using sapphire are great when it comes to durability, but because of its density, it is heavier than Gorilla Glass and will cost 4-5 times the price. The only mass produced device to use sapphire is the Kyocera Brigadier – a mid-ranged device that was the first one sent to us for testing that included a jar of rocks, steel wool and more to try and scratch the surface – Alex was unsuccessful. Japan's Kyocera has been growing sapphire for 41 years.
GT Advanced Technologies developed a process to apply a thin layer of sapphire over glass, much like a laminate – giving us the durability of sapphire and the lighter weight of the glass…not to mention a cheaper price than pure sapphire. Apple indicated in November 2013 that they would partner with GT Advanced Technologies and open up a manufacturing plant in Arizona to make sapphire for its devices. It looks like Xiaomi may beat them to the punch if what the Electronic Times says turns out to be true.
Please hook up with us on our Google+ Page and let us know if you would like to see sapphire on your next device…as always, we would love to hear from you.