Sapphire: Strong Enough for Jewelry, But a Match Made in Heavy for Tech Products

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When we think of sapphires, most of us think of the expensive gemstones used in jewelry, but many people do not know sapphires actually have had a wide variety of industrial applications for hundreds of years. Why would companies want to use such an expensive mineral in their technology products? First and foremost, sapphire is incredibly durable, behind only diamond as the second hardest mineral, scoring 9.0 out of 10 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. It is also a very chemically stable mineral. Sapphire’s durability and chemical stability has made it ideal for use in precision mechanics, timepieces, displays and more, across many different industries.

Real sapphire – which is a variety of the mineral corundum, an aluminum oxide – saw its first industrial application more than 300 years ago as jewel bearings in high-end mechanical timepieces. While this was costly, longevity and accuracy were worth the high price of these components. These types of timepieces were built to pass down from generation to generation.

The first man-made sapphire was produced as far back as 1902, using a process of grinding natural aluminum oxide into powder and then heating it to 3,761°F. While most sapphires used in jewelry are colored, this is actually due to impurities in the mineral. Without any impurities present, sapphire is a completely clear material. It has high strength, anti-abrasion and anti-corrosion characteristics, good light transmission, and can be processed into sheets, all of which are ideal for clear device displays, such as smartphones, watches, microwaves, projectors, as well as precision tools and other electronic components.

Kyocera has been producing and utilizing man-made single-crystal sapphire for electronic components for more than 40 years. Some of the uses for sapphire include watch lenses, inspection equipment parts, medical diagnostic equipment parts and chamber windows. More recently, Kyocera began developing pure sapphire displays for its leading portfolio of ruggedized smartphones. Perfectly suited for rugged devices, sapphire displays have proven to be incredibly resistant to scratches and damage that often blemish smartphones. Once reserved for luxury phones costing thousands of dollars, only in the past few years have smartphone manufacturers begun using sapphire displays in mass-market phones, and Kyocera was the first.

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Kyocera’s Sapphire Shield Display technology is now used on multiple Kyocera smartphones, including the Kyocera DuraForce PRO at Verizon. Our Sapphire Shield helps protect devices by:

  • Resisting ongoing, minor scratches and micro-fractures. When you pay hundreds of dollars for a smartphone, you don’t want the touchscreen display to be degraded and ruined over time by ugly scratches and cracks. As phones sit in pockets and purses, however, that’s exactly what happens when they get scraped by keys, coins and other hard objects. At Kyocera, we like to show off the durability of our Sapphire Shield display by testing it with steel wool, knives, coins and other common display-killers.
  • Enhancing the long-term integrity of the display. Think of how glass is typically cut. Rather than actually cutting all the way through a sheet of glass, traditional glass cutters simply score the glass so it can be broken along that same score. Similarly, scratches and micro-fractures in a phone display weaken its integrity over time by preparing it to be more easily broken along those fault lines.

Sapphire displays cost more than typical hardened-glass displays, which explains why they were historically used only in high-end luxury phones. Kyocera, however, has gotten past that issue and used sapphire displays in devices costing far less than today’s most popular smartphones. It’s a win-win for everyone involved, but especially for the phones’ users, who can worry less about cosmetic blemishing and long-term failure (i.e., shattering) of their displays.

For more information about Kyocera’s Sapphire Shield Display technology, visit: https://www.kyoceramobile.com/sapphire-shield/ and for details on other applications of Kyocera sapphire technology, visit: http://global.kyocera.com/prdct/fc/list/material/sapphire/index.html

John Chier is director of corporate communications at Kyocera. He has worked on the Kyocera team shaping its communications strategy over the past 15 years – 13 of those years in-house and two with a Kyocera agency partner. John has always had a passion for writing and began his career as a newspaper reporter at the Whittier Daily News, part of a multi-paper syndicate in Los Angeles. When not working, he and his wife can usually be found coaching, shuttling, refereeing or cheering for his three sons and their numerous plays.

Rugged Mobile Devices Deliver Significant Cost Savings to Businesses of All Sizes

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The following post is inspired by Kyocera’s recently published white paper, authored by Dr. Muzibul Khan, titled: Carrier-Subsidized Rugged Devices Are a Game Changer for Field Force Mobility. Check it out to learn more about enterprise-ready, affordable commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) rugged devices and field-force mobility solutions.

Companies have long relied upon ruggedized mobile devices to enable on-the-job communications in challenging settings, and to connect field-force workers with the people and systems that are critical to business operations. Traditionally, this niche has been served through the utilization of purpose-built handheld phone, tablet and laptop solutions offered by specialty manufacturers. And while recent advancements in technology and mobile operating systems have vastly improved the usability of these hardened mobile devices, their historically steep price points have remained unchanged, often ranging from $1,000 – $2,000 or more per device.

Today, businesses seeking total enterprise mobility have new options for enabling field forces with devices that can withstand virtually any environment, any job and any application – and at a fraction of the cost. The availability of affordable, mass-market rugged devices that provide enterprise-grade durability is disrupting the field-force mobility market, providing business managers with carrier-subsidized alternatives for equipping their field-force teams and helping companies realize cost savings and lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

The Cost Advantages of Going Rugged

For industries like construction, healthcare, logistics, manufacturing and many more, the requirements for durable mobile devices are unique. These workers often spend their days in demanding, noisy and potentially dirty environments where consumer devices run high risk for jobsite failures that can directly impact performance and employee productivity. In addition, typical consumer devices often lack the enterprise-grade features required to securely interoperate within a business IT environment, a downfall that can have serious consequences for companies in highly regulated industries. For these reasons, consumer mobile devices have never represented a viable substitute to the ruggedized devices of the past, despite their more attractive price points.

While some businesses have been tempted to avoid steep investments in ruggedized solutions by turning to wireless service providers for consumer-grade alternatives, research shows that the upfront cost savings are mitigated over time when evaluating the true TCO. According to a study by VDC Research, TCO for rugged devices in business settings, which includes both the initial investment and the subsequent costs associated with failures and breakage, is significantly lower when compared to that of non-rugged devices. In fact, non-rugged consumer devices were found to fail more than three times as often as rugged devices, leading to worker downtime, increased support services and significant replacement costs. Based on VDC’s data, annual TCO for non-rugged devices (approximately $4,000) is actually almost double that of rugged devices (approximately $2,000), disproving the low-cost mindset that may initially attract businesses to consumer mobile devices.

The New Alternative for Enterprise Rugged Mobility

In 2012, Kyocera began leveraging its deep experience in designing durable, waterproof devices for the consumer market to create a line of enterprise-strength, ruggedized feature phones and smartphones aimed at meeting the needs of businesses and field-force workers. The devices, widely available at major wireless service providers in North America, are triggering a shift in enterprise mobility by offering a unique combination of enterprise-grade protection (e.g., Military Standard 810G and IP ratings) with off-the-shelf retail availability and consumer-tier pricing.

Having partnered with nearly all major carriers in North America, including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Bell Mobility and Telus (among others), Kyocera’s enterprise-ready rugged devices are typically available at subsidized prices (with contracts) in the neighborhood of $49 to $149. And with a robust ecosystem of software/application developers and hardware accessory manufacturers, Kyocera’s rugged devices can be customized into affordable, yet highly specialized systems that enhance the business-user’s experience, improve communication and data management, and increase overall employee productivity.

To learn more about enterprise-ready, affordable commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) rugged devices and field-force mobility solutions, check out our recently published white paper authored by Kyocera’s Dr. Muzibul Khan, titled: Carrier-Subsidized Rugged Devices Are a Game Changer for Field Force Mobility.

John is director of corporate communications at Kyocera. He has worked on the Kyocera team shaping its communications strategy over the past 15 years – 13 of those years in-house and two with a Kyocera agency partner. John has always had a passion for writing and began his career as a newspaper reporter at the Whittier Daily News, part of a multi-paper syndicate in Los Angeles.  When not working, he and his wife can usually be found coaching, shuttling, refereeing or cheering for his three sons and their numerous plays, concerts and sports teams.