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Apple's Cool New Patent Could Mean an End to Screen Protectors


If rock beats scissors, does sapphire beat gorrilla? Apple's new patent says yes.

If Apple has its way, you may never need a screen protector for your phone again.

FAIRFAX, CA - DECEMBER 13:  An icon for the Google Maps app is seen on an Apple iPhone 4S on December 13, 2012 in Fairfax, California. Three months after Apple removed the popular Google Maps from its operating system to replace it with its own mapping software, a Google Maps app has been added to the iTunes store. Apple Maps were widely panned in tech reviews and among customers, the fallout resulting in the dismissal of the top executive in charge of Apple's mobile operating system. Credit: Getty Images Apple filed a patent for a new way to take Earth's second-hardest substance and make it even less likely to break, and rumors are flying that the new ion-boosted sapphire will make its debut on iPhone 6 screens Tuesday (Getty Images)

The tech giant is set to reveal its latest version of the iPhone next week and it's rumored to have a new sapphire screen -- made of one of the hardest materials on the planet. Apple's patent application describing the enhancements to the nearly indestructible substance has more rumors flying about just how tough the new screen will be.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published an Apple patent Thursday that describes a method of implanting ions into the sapphire lattice structure, strengthening the already hard material without using chemical treatments, according to Apple Insider.

Why does it matter? Thus far, Corning, the makers of Gorilla Glass (the material used for current iPhones) essentially had the market cornered on tough screens. They even published a video showing that their patented material stood up to higher pressures than sapphire.

So the question is, what's harder: chemically enhanced glass or ion-boosted sapphire?

With its new strengthening technique, Apple clearly believes their treated corundum (the mineral category sapphire technically falls under, rated as the second-hardest material on the planet) will raise the scratch-free stakes.

Sapphire has proven its toughness in plenty of applications elsewhere, such as on commercial aircraft and in military applications. But Tim Bajarin, an independent analyst with Creative Strategies, said sapphire is very expensive to produce, and will add $100 to the cost of the new iPhone, according to USA Today.

Bajarin suggests Apple may offer it as a step-up upgrade for folks who want a stronger, more scratch-resistant screen. The iPhone with its current Gorilla Glass screen will continue to be offered at the same price, he said.

"It's not like you can drive a car over it," says Hall. "But it will do better than traditional glass."

Marques Brownlee, one YouTube technology reviewer who claims to have tested a leaked sample of the sapphire iPhone screen, is ready to make the grand claim.

"We don't have to use screen protectors any more," Brownlee says in his video while he scratches, pokes and stabs at the unverified sapphire screen. His video thus far as more than 7 million views, proving people are curious about the possibilities of a nearly indestructible phone screen.

What do you think?


Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter. 

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