As if you haven’t already heard: Apple’s update of the iPhone 5 made the tech world gape in awe at its new feature–the Touch ID, a fingerprint identity sensor. Apple’s Touch ID allows iPhone users to use their fingerprint as their passwords, conveniently placing the sensor on the home button.
According to Apple, a team of biometric experts and hardware engineers redesigned the iconic Home button to include a layer of laser-cut sapphire crystal, a capacitive touch sensor paired with a stainless steel detection ring and new software that reads your fingerprint and finds a match to unlock the phone.
Now, everyone knows that sapphire is second only to diamond in terms of gem hardness. A patent filed by Apple titled “Sapphire Laminates” reveals that the tech giant is working on incorporating the expensive gemstone into future iPhones not as protection for the camera lens (which is currently present on the iPhone 5) nor as a fingerprint sensor (which comes out on the refreshed 5s), but as a scratch-resistant display covering or even as part of the device’s screen.
According to Patently Apple, the “use of a sapphire outer surface with a glass inner surface for the display may be used in future iDevices where the two sapphire surfaces are laminated together with the glass providing support for the display and the sapphire providing scratch resistance and durability advantages.”
But how would manufacturing costs factor into the cost of the phone? Sapphire is expensive to begin with, and the cutting and polishing of the material will become even more expensive as it would most likely wear out the machines who process it.
There is no doubt that Apple can deal with the manufacturing expenses of using a gemstone like sapphire in future iPhones, however, with the introduction of the lower-cost iPhone 5c, having a premium, higher-end iPhone in the near future doesn’t seem like something of a stretch.
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