However, in the future, Apple might employ ceramics in its iPhones, a material that's supposed to be even more durable than glass or aluminum. In fact, a Jet Black iPhone made of ceramics might not scratch as easily as the Jet Black iPhone 7 does, or even at all.
One report argued that Apple will surely make the move to zirconia ceramic for the iPhone, a material it already uses on the Apple Watch. Others made a strong case against Apple using such ceramics for the iPhone. But a new patent application indicates that Apple is very serious about making use of ceramics in its products.
First discovered by Patently Apple, the patent in question is titled Laser Polishing Ceramic Material. Published for public consumption a few days ago, the patent was actually filed on July 29th 2015, which proves Apple has been looking at making ceramic casings for its devices for quite a while. The patent mentions sapphire alongside zirconia — in fact, it mostly details how the company’s laser-based polishing technique would polish sapphire components that would go into the iPhone.
In case some forgot, Apple wanted to use sapphire instead of glass displays on the iPhone 6, but those plans fell through. It turns out making the kind of sapphire Apple needs, both when it comes to quantity and quality, proved to be difficult and time-consuming.
"Corundum is a crystalline form of aluminum oxide and may be found in various colors, many of which are generally referred to as sapphire," Apple explains, as it briefly details why sapphire would be a great material for mobile devices.
"In general, sapphire is a hard and strong material with a hardness of 9.0 on the Mohs scale, and, as such, is capable of scratching nearly all other minerals. Because of its hardness and strength, sapphire may be an attractive alternative to other translucent materials like polycarbonate."
The company continued, "However, due in part to its inherent properties, manufacturing components out of sapphire may be difficult in high-volume manufacturing conditions. In particular, sapphire’s hardness makes polishing the material both difficult and time-consuming particularly if the component includes contoured surfaces or features."
Apple's invention details ways in which the various sapphire components would be polished using lasers, including components that have non-planar surfaces.