The sapphire display on the Apple Watch can, according to one shocking but unscientific test, withstand it all.
One U.K.-based company called iPhonefixed was able to obtain a 38 mm sapphire crystal glass display used for the upcoming Apple Watch, which is expected to go on sale on Friday, and subjected it to a series of scratch tests to see if it can withstand a variety of rough surfaces and impacts.
In a video released by iPhonefixed and uploaded on YouTube by 9to5Mac, we can see the sapphire glass display first being rubbed up against a rough stone wall, being scratched with a coin, then a key, then an abrasive paper of an unknown grit. Since sapphire is the second hardest transparent material on Earth, next only to diamonds, one would expect that the Apple Watch display comes out unscathed from these first four tests.
But what would happen if the display is subjected to more unconventional tests, such as tapping it with a hammer or, for people who have no problems intentionally damaging their expensive Apple Watch, the power drill?
iPhonefixed decided to upgrade the materials it was using for testing and took out a hammer to lightly tap the surface of the sapphire, which came out strong, unscratched, undented, and un-nicked. And when it was time for the power drill, the sapphire display still impressively managed to end up with no single blemish on its surface.
Although the tests by iPhonefixed were rather primitive, they still show that the Apple Watch and the Apple Watch Edition, which both have the sapphire crystal display, will be able to withstand the everyday wear and tear that goes with users wearing their watch all day. Sapphire crystal is, in fact, a common material used for luxury watches and camera lenses because of its scratch-proof property.
The tests, however, do not include the strengthened Ion-X glass display that Apple uses for the less expensive Apple Watch Sport, which start at $349 for the cheapest model. As Apple points out, the ion-strengthened display is actually more shatter-resistant than sapphire, which, although more scratch-proof, is more brittle than glass.
"I was told by multiple sources that various field tests subjected sapphire to scratch and break tests against strengthened glass," analyst Tim Bajarin wrote in an op-ed piece for Time magazine in 2014, around the time Apple decided to part ways with sapphire glass maker GT Advanced Technologies. "It performs better on scratch resistance, but when you drop it, it is more likely than glass to break. Glass actually flexes and can absorb the shock of a drop more successfully than sapphire."
This means the Apple Watch display will not likely be able to stand up to a drop as well as it endures a power drill. However, since people don't often drop their watches as often as their smartphones, and the Apple Watch has a smaller surface than the iPhone, it's not likely we'll see instances of the Apple Watch's sapphire crystal display shattering often.