Stingy sapphire lens in Apple's iPhone 7 is as scratchy as glass

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Apple claims its iPhone is the world’s most popular digital camera, but perhaps it isn’t as robust as it should be.

Hardware buff Zack Nelson has found that Cupertino's sapphire glass uses a lower-quality material, making it as prone to scratching as regular tempered glass.

Sapphire boast ... Screenshot of Apple.com

According to Apple, sapphire material covers the sensor of the new iPhone 7, but that’s not the full story, according to JerryRigEverything, a YouTube channel that focuses on product durability.

On the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, the latest versions of tempered glass such as Gorilla Glass scratch at level 6 or 7, while sapphire only shows scratches at 8 or 9. The iPhone 7’s camera scratches at 6, the same as the versions of Gorilla Glass on the market.

“A [Mohs strength] 6, 7 and 8 pick all leave a mark, scratching much sooner than sapphire crystals should scratch,” Nelson said.

Testing using an X-ray fluorescence machine and an electron microscope suggests that the iPhone 7 camera is protected by carbon and a very thin silicon layer – possibly to minimize reflection.

Youtube Video

In short, the iPhone 7 lens isn't more scratch-prone than anyone else's – it just isn't as scratch-resistant as the marketing suggests. “How impure can your sapphire be, and still call it sapphire?” asks Nelson.

Apple has already admitted the jet black casing of its iPhone 7 models is prone to scratching: "Its high shine may show fine micro abrasions with use ... we suggest you use one of the many cases available to protect your iPhone," the California giant recommends.

Earlier this year, JerryRigEverything discovered that the “tablet class liquid cooling” that Microsoft VP Panos Panay had claimed was built into the Lumia 950 XL (“we push that technology to every limit possible”) turned out to be a copper heat sink.

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