Sapphire screen cover hampers Apple Watch display quality, expert says

Posted:
in Apple Watch edited April 2015
The best screen image quality can actually be found on Apple's entry-level Apple Watch Sport, as the costlier stainless steel and Edition versions feature sapphire covers that degrade image quality with higher reflectance, a display expert claims.




In his detailed testing of the new Apple Watch display, Raymond Soneira of DisplayMate Technologies found that the scratch resistant sapphire found on the mid- and high-end Apple Watch models "significantly affects the optical performance" of the OLED display. Compared to traditional glass, the sapphire is said to perform poorly in high ambient light and at large viewing angles.

"In order to increase the use of sapphire for displays, the sapphire industry will need to modify the optical properties of sapphire without significantly affecting its scratch resistance and other mechanical properties," Soneira wrote. It can't be done using traditional anti-reflection optical coatings which scratch easily."

Instead of sapphire, the entry-level Apple Watch Sport utilizes a less expensive "Ion-X" strengthened glass display, which is the same technology used on the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus.

Compared to the Ion-X display, the sapphire cover reflects about twice as much ambient light. The sapphire on the Apple Watch is said to reflect about 8.2 percent of light, compared to just 4.6 percent with the Ion-X glass.

Underneath the protective cover, all Apple Watch models use an OLED panel, which is a first for Apple. The OLED display earned high marks from Soneira, who said the screen has largely the same colors, color calibration, and color accuracy as the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 51
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    Thank goodness for all of these "experts". Society would crumble without their opinions.
  • Reply 2 of 51
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post



    Thank goodness for all of these "experts". Society would crumble without their opinions.



    Also thank goodness Raymond doesn't have a bone to pick with Apple...wait...

  • Reply 3 of 51
    pazipazi Posts: 6member

    I believe it. The touch ID button of my white iPhone 5S is a shade darker than the rest of it.

  • Reply 4 of 51
    dcj001dcj001 Posts: 301member
    Neil Hughes wrote:

    "Compared to the Ion-X display, the sapphire cover reflects about twice as much ambient light. The sapphire on the Apple Watch is said to reflect about 8.2 percent of light, compared to just 4.6 percent with the Ion-X glass."

    Actually, compared to the Ion-X display, the sapphire cover reflects about 78% more ambient light; not about twice as much (100% more).
  • Reply 5 of 51
    iaeeniaeen Posts: 588member
    pazi wrote: »
    I believe it. The touch ID button of my white iPhone 5S is a shade darker than the rest of it.

    This has absolutely nothing to do with the color of your Touch ID button.
  • Reply 6 of 51
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by iaeen View Post





    This has absolutely nothing to do with the color of your Touch ID button.



    His TouchID button is covered by...wait for it...wait for it...sapphire! So it is a mildly helpful anecdote.

  • Reply 7 of 51
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,941member

    Oh great... here we go again... another <insert whine>Gate.



     

  • Reply 8 of 51
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,331member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TheWhiteFalcon View Post

     
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iaeen View Post





    This has absolutely nothing to do with the color of your Touch ID button.



    His TouchID button is covered by...wait for it...wait for it...sapphire! So it is a mildly helpful anecdote.


     

    Yes - that's an expected result, since the higher reflectivity of the sapphire means that less light is reaching the white surface underneath it. Similarly, if you look at reflected light from the front of an iPhone 6, the reflection from the sapphire is brighter than from the surrounding glass.

  • Reply 9 of 51
    waterrocketswaterrockets Posts: 1,231member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by pazi View Post

     

    I believe it. The touch ID button of my white iPhone 5S is a shade darker than the rest of it.


     

    The claim is not that less light gets through, it's that more light is reflected, so the symptom would be lower contrast, or perceived lower brightness, when you're outside in full sun.

  • Reply 10 of 51
    pscooter63pscooter63 Posts: 1,060member

    Oh, come on.  This might be a problem if your wrist and head weren't capable of pivoting to compensate.  But for most folk, they are, and with minimal time/effort.

     

    [edited for clarity]

  • Reply 11 of 51
    OLED with accurate colors? Pfft. When will Apple learn to crank up the color saturation on its OLED displays to "neon crayon"?
  • Reply 12 of 51
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,331member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by waterrockets View Post

     
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by pazi View Post

     

    I believe it. The touch ID button of my white iPhone 5S is a shade darker than the rest of it.


     

    The claim is not that less light gets through, it's that more light is reflected, so the symptom would be lower contrast, or perceived lower brightness, when you're outside in full sun.


     

    If more light is reflected then, by definition, less is transmitted to the surface underneath, which then has less to reflect back through the button to the observer. It doesn't require any particular light source to illuminate it.

  • Reply 13 of 51
    prolineproline Posts: 202member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post



    Thank goodness for all of these "experts". Society would crumble without their opinions.

     

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TheWhiteFalcon View Post

     



    Also thank goodness Raymond doesn't have a bone to pick with Apple...wait...


    What's your issue? Soneira's analysis is detailed and accurate, and his overall assessments are very fair. He's praised Apple many time, such as for the iPhone 5 and most recently the iPhone 6 Plus. He's also praised Apple for choosing quality over sheer pixel counts as many Android vendors do, and for making their colors realistic rather than gaudy so they stand out in the showroom. On the other hand, he's willing to call a turd a turd, as with the washed out screen on the iPad Mini 2 and 3. 

     

    I'd be curious if either of you has any justification for what you are saying.

  • Reply 14 of 51
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by proline View Post

     

     

    What's your issue? Soneira's analysis is detailed and accurate, and his overall assessments are very fair. He's praised Apple many time, such as for the iPhone 5 and most recently the iPhone 6 Plus. He's also praised Apple for choosing quality over sheer pixel counts as many Android vendors do, and for making their colors realistic rather than gaudy so they stand out in the showroom. On the other hand, he's willing to call a turd a turd, as with the washed out screen on the iPad Mini 2 and 3. 

     

    I'd be curious if either of you has any justification for what you are saying.




    Soneira tried to act like he was a genius by claiming the Retina Display was not "retina" grade, and was promptly slapped down by real experts.

  • Reply 15 of 51
    jackansijackansi Posts: 116member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

     

    If more light is reflected then, by definition, less is transmitted to the surface underneath, which then has less to reflect back through the button to the observer. It doesn't require any particular light source to illuminate it.


     

    It has more to do with the source light (display) competing with reflected ambient light.  Also a minuscule of the sources light (display) will be reflected back to the source (display). 

     

    If all this is a "problem", turn your wrist slightly so that it is not reflecting anything bright.   "Problem" solved.

     

    I don't see it being a real practical issue for most, if not all, users.

     

    But the data in the article is probably real data.  It's just not enough to get in a twist over, one way or the other.

  • Reply 16 of 51
    tmaytmay Posts: 5,716member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by proline View Post

     

     

    What's your issue? Soneira's analysis is detailed and accurate, and his overall assessments are very fair. He's praised Apple many time, such as for the iPhone 5 and most recently the iPhone 6 Plus. He's also praised Apple for choosing quality over sheer pixel counts as many Android vendors do, and for making their colors realistic rather than gaudy so they stand out in the showroom. On the other hand, he's willing to call a turd a turd, as with the washed out screen on the iPad Mini 2 and 3. 

     

    I'd be curious if either of you has any justification for what you are saying.


    Accurate and relevant are not necessarily related.

     

    What would be appropriate is a comparison with, for example, current iPhones and even Android Wear devices. There's nothing wrong with thorough testing, but his business is display testing, so the usual caveats for real world usage apply; YMMV.

  • Reply 17 of 51
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,232member
    Well, it's the same for all quality watches with sapphire covers.
  • Reply 18 of 51
    dws-2dws-2 Posts: 276member

    Blah, Blah, Blah.

     

    It's a long report, but doesn't tell me whether it will work for me.

    A picture of all the different options side by side in different lighting would tell me a lot more.

  • Reply 19 of 51
    Having had a Tag Heuer for more than 20 years, I've had a sapphire crystal since the day I got the watch. What's more, I've had the SAME sapphire crystal for all of those years, and despite my slamming my wrist against doorjambs and other incidents, it is still perfect--not a single scratch.

    Anyone who has used a watch with a sapphire crystal will agree that it certainly doesn't hamper the ability to see the watch face beneath it; my Tag (which is now locked in storage) is a beautiful watch, and now that I have my new stainless-steel Apple Watch, I can already see that the display is clear and beautiful to behold. This guy is full of it.
  • Reply 20 of 51
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,454member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by melgross View Post



    Well, it's the same for all quality watches with sapphire covers.



    Isn't this also true of the sapphire covers on the iPhone cameras? If light reflection were truly a problem here, wouldn't that be a huge problem for a camera? Does the software compensate for this effect then?

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