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Apple reveals sapphire covered iPhone display, vehicle location in patent filings

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
Among Apple's 41 patent applications published on Thursday were properties covering sapphire window manufacturing for iPhone displays and camera covers, as well as a method to automatically save the location of a parked car.

Sapphire Windows



The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published yet another sapphire-related Apple property, this time relating to cutting and processing wafers of the material for use in portable electronics. Although not the focus of the invention, Apple does mention that the sapphire window method can be applied to an iPhone's display. This is one of the first prominent mentions of a sapphire-covered screen to be found in the company's patent filings.

Sapphire
Source: USPTO


Simply titled "Sapphire Window," Apple's filing describes methods in which the hard material can be grown, harvested into polished wafers, decorated (painted or masked) and cut into discrete windows. As applied to portable electronics, the invention covers camera module covers, like those seen on the iPhone 5 and up, as well as device displays.

As noted in the application, sapphire has yet to see wide use in the consumer electronics industry due in part to the very properties that make it desirable. Since the material is so hard, conventional manufacturing techniques may not be effective in turning out a finished product. Tool wear is also a consideration when using conventional methods of cutting and shaping.

In one embodiment, a laser is used to cut through the sapphire wafer to yield a number of windows to be used in a device assembly. Various techniques are described, including the use of IR and pulse lasers of sufficient power to make clean cuts. Apple notes the use of lasers is both faster and more precise than CNC grinding methods.

Sapphire
From left: Ink masks for discrete windows on a sapphire wafer, enlarged window, alternative wafer cutting.


As for harvesting sapphire, the property explains that the material can be grown and cored to form a core that can then be sliced into workable wafers. This method also includes lapping and polishing the wafers, as well as dicing via laser, to yield discrete windows.

Once the sapphire window is ground, polished, ablated and cut to size, various coatings or decorations may be applied to its surface. For example, ink masking or oleophobic coatings can be layered on one side of the sapphire.

Apple's sapphire window patent application was first filed for in 2012 and credits Christopher D. Prest, Ashutosh Y. Shukla, Dale N. Memering, Vashist Vasanthakumar, Vincent Yan and Thomas Johannessen as its inventors.

Earlier on thursday, documents surfaced relating to Apple's partnership with sapphire manufacturer GT Advanced Technologies. The packet outlined "Project Cascade," an advanced sapphire manufacturing facility in Mesa, Ariz., that Apple is pushing to get online as soon as February.

Vehicle Location System



Apple's "Vehicle location system" describes an easy method for iOS device owners to locate, save and recall the GPS location of a parked car. Unlike a separate property involving Bluetooth beacons, Thursday's publication is straightforward and only requires a GPS-enabled smart device and a Bluetooth-capable car or in-car device.

Vehicle


In some embodiments, a portable device like an iPhone may be programed to communicate with a vehicle via a wired or wireless interface such as Bluetooth. When connected, the device can determine that the user has moved into a car and is ready to drive. This triggers the activation of an on-board GPS, like that found in an iPhone, which tracks car location and motion.

To determine that a user has parked their vehicle, the system analyzes data from the GPS module, accelerometer or direct communication from the car itself. In some embodiments, geofencing or Bluetooth microlocation can be used to detect when a user is no longer near their vehicle.

Once it is determined that the user has parked, the device saves the car's location data for later recall by a mapping or similar application.

While it remains unclear if Apple will roll out such a feature, current iPhones and iPads already boast hardware that can handle many of the patent's implementations. An interesting addition to the filing would be the application of iBeacon technology, which in theory could provide inside/outside vehicle location data instead of a power-hungry GPS module.

The patent application was filed for in 2012 and credits Steven C.Michalske as its inventor.
post #2 of 22
"decorated" seems like an odd word to use. Does it have a particular meaning in this instance?

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post #3 of 22
Looks like an edge to edge display too lol
post #4 of 22
I wonder what the sapphire would feel like on the fingers as you're swiping, dragging etc? If it feels much nicer than glass, it could make iPhone owners get used to it, and other phones feel bad to them if they try to switch away. It could also be used on the Macbook Pro/Air touchpad.
post #5 of 22
Ironic. Apple designs glass that can't break but when Microsoft created Windows it was designed to crash.
I’d rather have a better product than a better price.
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I’d rather have a better product than a better price.
Reply
post #6 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

I wonder what the sapphire would feel like on the fingers as you're swiping, dragging etc? If it feels much nicer than glass, it could make iPhone owners get used to it, and other phones feel bad to them if they try to switch away. It could also be used on the Macbook Pro/Air touchpad.

 

I think it should feel relatively similar if not a bit smoother, since as far as I can tell, sapphire is even more dense than the gorilla glass being used.

post #7 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

I wonder what the sapphire would feel like on the fingers as you're swiping, dragging etc? If it feels much nicer than glass, it could make iPhone owners get used to it, and other phones feel bad to them if they try to switch away. It could also be used on the Macbook Pro/Air touchpad.

I had my iPhone 5s (no screen protector yet) in my left hand and my Swiss Army watch (sapphire crystal) in my right. I rubbed both and the watch felt slightly smoother. Using my index finger to swipe, I felt the tiniest amount of drag on the iPhone and almost none on the watch. People will say one feels better than the other but they feel just about the same to me. Of course, a dirty iPhone screen has more drag than a clean one.

post #8 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by foad View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

I wonder what the sapphire would feel like on the fingers as you're swiping, dragging etc? If it feels much nicer than glass, it could make iPhone owners get used to it, and other phones feel bad to them if they try to switch away. It could also be used on the Macbook Pro/Air touchpad.

I think it should feel relatively similar if not a bit smoother, since as far as I can tell, sapphire is even more dense than the gorilla glass being used.

The level of polishing and surface finish will determine the feel more than the material composition. The density difference, while large, will make no difference to the feel. The thermal diffusivity of sapphire is much higher, so thick elements feel colder than glass, but these wafers are quite thin, and may equilibriate too fast for that to be very noticeable.
post #9 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

The level of polishing and surface finish will determine the feel more than the material composition. The density difference, while large, will make no difference to the feel. The thermal diffusivity of sapphire is much higher, so thick elements feel colder than glass, but these wafers are quite thin, and may equilibriate too fast for that to be very noticeable.

Thanks for the info. Much appreciated.
post #10 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by rob53 View Post

I had my iPhone 5s (no screen protector yet) in my left hand and my Swiss Army watch (sapphire crystal) in my right. I rubbed both and the watch felt slightly smoother. Using my index finger to swipe, I felt the tiniest amount of drag on the iPhone and almost none on the watch. People will say one feels better than the other but they feel just about the same to me. Of course, a dirty iPhone screen has more drag than a clean one.

It will feel much smoother. Toroidal rubies are used as the bearing surfaces in the movements of high-end watches because they have an extremely low coefficient of friction. Rubies are made of the same stuff as sapphire minus certain impurities. Both are very hard and very smooth. Another benefit is that sapphire is better at transferring the interaction between your finger and the capacitive sensors. I'm an ME, so I don't get the science behind that black magic.
post #11 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

To determine that a user has parked their vehicle, the system analyzes data from the GPS module, accelerometer or direct communication from the car itself. In some embodiments, geofencing or Bluetooth microlocation can be used to detect when a user is no longer near their vehicle.

Once it is determined that the user has parked, the device saves the car's location data for later recall by a mapping or similar application.

While it remains unclear if Apple will roll out such a feature, current iPhones and iPads already boast hardware that can handle many of the patent's implementations. An interesting addition to the filing would be the application of iBeacon technology, which in theory could provide inside/outside vehicle location data instead of a power-hungry GPS module.

The patent application was filed for in 2012 and credits Steven C.Michalske as its inventor.

For some reason, other people from Apple applied for a couple of similar patents in 2013:

http://forums.appleinsider.com/t/157174/apple-wants-to-use-iphone-bluetooth-to-locate-interact-with-cars

I don't know how they can't use accelerometer data alone. If you are in a car, the motion is perfectly horizontal at fast speeds. When you step out of a car, the phone is going to be moving very slowly and being bumped up and down as you walk at a slow speed. When the motion discontinuities happen, they just have to enable the GPS and record the position at those points. You won't have to get any new car equipment or beacons.

Once you are back in the car park, it can eliminate any other motion discontinuities with locations outside the car park it may have stored.
post #12 of 22

In what ways does the automatic location system differ substantially from the implementation in the Find My Car Smarter app (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/find-my-car-smarter/id547090457?mt=8), (http://www.findmycarsmarter.com/tablet/index.html)?

post #13 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruskie View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by rob53 View Post

I had my iPhone 5s (no screen protector yet) in my left hand and my Swiss Army watch (sapphire crystal) in my right. I rubbed both and the watch felt slightly smoother. Using my index finger to swipe, I felt the tiniest amount of drag on the iPhone and almost none on the watch. People will say one feels better than the other but they feel just about the same to me. Of course, a dirty iPhone screen has more drag than a clean one.

It will feel much smoother. Toroidal rubies are used as the bearing surfaces in the movements of high-end watches because they have an extremely low coefficient of friction. Rubies are made of the same stuff as sapphire minus certain impurities. Both are very hard and very smooth. Another benefit is that sapphire is better at transferring the interaction between your finger and the capacitive sensors. I'm an ME, so I don't get the science behind that black magic.

 

The fact that Al2O3 is used for bearings does not mean that it will feel smoother than glass - that depends more on polishing and surface treatments. And the coeffiecient of friction depends on the two materials interacting, not just one of them, so µsapphire-steel does not tell you anything about µsapphire-skin even without surface treatment, especially since the interaction mechanisms are quite different. 

post #14 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by d4NjvRzf View Post
 

In what ways does the automatic location system differ substantially from the implementation in the Find My Car Smarter app (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/find-my-car-smarter/id547090457?mt=8), (http://www.findmycarsmarter.com/tablet/index.html)?

 

Looks similar - just doesn't necessarily require the additional device plugged into the vehicle.

post #15 of 22

I haven't needed it to use it that often but the Find My Car app seems to work well. You park your car, open the app and set location. Then when you return open app and it guides you to it using GPS. 

 

If I am reading the info on the sapphire window patent correctly that might be an easy way for Apple to make a much larger display while keeping the phone practically the same size.  The top of the phone with the ear speaker and camera as well as the bottom with the home button actually takes quite a bit of space. 

post #16 of 22
Quote:
I don't know how they can't use accelerometer data alone. If you are in a car, the motion is perfectly horizontal at fast speeds. When you step out of a car, the phone is going to be moving very slowly and being bumped up and down as you walk at a slow speed. When the motion discontinuities happen, they just have to enable the GPS and record the position at those points. You won't have to get any new car equipment or beacons.

Trains and cars aren't very distinguishable via an accelerometer alone.
post #17 of 22
So in theory, reading the previous article and this one , we can expect the next iPhone to do away with just the home button being sapphire covered and expand the sapphire covering to the complete 25% of the lower half of the iPhone or the entire display (if sapphire yields are equivalent to gorilla glass) ... And also make the lower half pressure sensitive with touch ID embedded behind the lower half!!

Easy way to increase the screen size without the overall device increasing in size and introduce new tech into the iPhone to make it further more desirable and differentiate it from the android phablets !!
post #18 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by srams123 View Post

So in theory, reading the previous article and this one , we can expect the next iPhone to do away with just the home button being sapphire covered and expand the sapphire covering to the complete 25% of the lower half of the iPhone or the entire display (if sapphire yields are equivalent to gorilla glass) ... And also make the lower half pressure sensitive with touch ID embedded behind the lower half!!

Easy way to increase the screen size without the overall device increasing in size and introduce new tech into the iPhone to make it further more desirable and differentiate it from the android phablets !!

can't apple use sapphire to make a 100% sapphire iPhone? 

post #19 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by anakin1992 View Post

can't apple use sapphire to make a 100% sapphire iPhone? 

I think that is what they are shooting for. As it stands right now, yields haven't been that high but with the new plant in Arizona, I think they are pushing to change that.
post #20 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by anakin1992 View Post
 

can't apple use sapphire to make a 100% sapphire iPhone? 

 

They could if they can find a market for a $5000 phone.  That's actually what I hope Apple's real innovation is- that they find a way to mass produce it inexpensively.  I work with quite a bit of industrial sapphire.  The surface feels no different than normal glass, but you can throw the stuff at the ground and have zero chance of breaking it, and nothing casual is going to remotely come close to scratching it.  We use panes about twice the size of an iPhone and about half as thick. 

 

If Apple can bring the cost down substantially, the fingerprint buttons would just be the start.  The real gem would be if they can manufacture sapphire wafers more inexpensively.  Silicon-on-sapphire (SOS) technology makes for much better RF switches and would be an advantage in making a universal global phone that could operate under a wider range of bandwidths.  The biggest detractor to using them now is simply cost (they are already being manufactured and in use mostly for military applications).  I think their short term plans are likely just sensor covers, but seeing where they can take the technology will be fun.

post #21 of 22
I just had a thought that perhaps iBeacons will become a hardware product that Apple sell to consumers. I read that currently the battery life is a year on a watch battery, so it's safe to assume that Apple could extend that significantly. I was lucky enough to be able to treat myself to the Phillips Hue light bulbs which has been a glimpse into the future where I can set lights to come on when I get home; I'd love to have iBeacons in every room. Your phone being able to know its precise has lots of uses in the home I'm sure, I just can't think of them but Apple can. The idea that iBeacons will just be used by advertisers is firstly horrible and secondly not what I think Apple would have had in mind. Remembering where you parked your car is just one example of a whole host of ideas I hope (although I do think marvin's solution is probably better!) But maybe we'll all be buying packs of 6 iBeacons from our Apple Store soon.
post #22 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Frood View Post
 

 

They could if they can find a market for a $5000 phone.  That's actually what I hope Apple's real innovation is- that they find a way to mass produce it inexpensively.  I work with quite a bit of industrial sapphire.  The surface feels no different than normal glass, but you can throw the stuff at the ground and have zero chance of breaking it, and nothing casual is going to remotely come close to scratching it.  We use panes about twice the size of an iPhone and about half as thick. 

 

If Apple can bring the cost down substantially, the fingerprint buttons would just be the start.  The real gem would be if they can manufacture sapphire wafers more inexpensively.  Silicon-on-sapphire (SOS) technology makes for much better RF switches and would be an advantage in making a universal global phone that could operate under a wider range of bandwidths.  The biggest detractor to using them now is simply cost (they are already being manufactured and in use mostly for military applications).  I think their short term plans are likely just sensor covers, but seeing where they can take the technology will be fun.

 

Good bit of info there. Thanks.

 

Question. Have you looked at the investment they have made in Arizona? What are your thoughts on it?

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