What if Apple let us choose between iPhone screens that scratch or crack?
This might be one of my more silly ideas, but bear with me. It could also be one of my best.
See, Apple announced today that it is giving Corning $45 million as part of its Advanced Manufacturing fund. Corning is the company responsible for the Ceramic Shield that all iPhone 12 models have and it's that treatment that is supposed to make those screens less susceptible to breaking when dropped. And that's cool – if you're someone who drops their phone regularly. Or doesn't use a case. Or both.
But there's one drawback to having a screen that doesn't crack. By making it less likely to explode upon impact, screen makers have to produce glass that's softer. Softer glass is more forgiving when dropped or placed under other kinds of stress because it can give. By contrast, glass that's designed to be as hard as can be won't scratch – but it'll break into a million pieces at the slightest sign of stress.
It's a trade-off for sure, and it's one that Apple has been making for years as it continues its quest to prevent iPhones from being obliterated when they fall from someone's hand. It's a trade-off most are happy with, too. But those of us who don't drop iPhones like the slippery bars of soap that they can so often be, we'd prefer an iPhone that doesn't get scratched whenever it brushes up against something more abrasive than air. We've all seek day-old iPhones with micro scratches all over them. It's no fun. No fun at all.
This brings me to my silly, perhaps ridiculous, and not-at-all-workable solution. Choice.
Now, I know. Someone inside Apple Park is already sweating at the idea of letting buyers make their own choices, but hold on a minute. Apple does have form for allowing people to choose different screen characteristics. The Pro Display XDR comes in what are basically matte and glossy options. Apple sold MacBook Pro notebooks with the same options years ago. I know Apple sells a lot more iPhones than MacBook Pros and Pro Display XDR. But this is Apple. It has more money than some countries. If it wanted to, it could make it happen.
But then again, maybe I'm the only one that wants it to make it happen in the first place. And I still think it'd be worth offering even if I am!
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Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.
Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.
So I purchase AppleCare+ and it does not technically cover scratched screens - only cracked screens. So whenever Apple trades scratch resistance for better crack resistance they are helping their bottom line. I think once or twice Apple Store let me get the screen replaced for $30 due to scratches with 5 phones in our family over the last 4 or 5 years — it’s totally at their discretion.
I will take the crack resistance over scratch resistance any day - because I use a screen protector. I've had older phones with harder glass displays fall and crack, even with a screen protector. With more modern iPhones, I have never had that problem, so for my use-case, it is worth the trade off.