Case for iPhone 13 Pro

Started Sep 29, 2021 | Questions thread
Marco Nero
Marco Nero Veteran Member • Posts: 7,563
iPhone lenses & Sapphire glass

jaberg wrote:

The lenses on the iPhone are already behind protective glass “filters”. In my experience they don’t need much in the way of protection. I’ve never broken or scratched the cover glass. Wipe clean with a sleeve if they get dusty or dirty. Polish with a lens cloth and a drop of iso occasionally. No need for special care.

I carry a microfiber cleaning cloth designed for cleaning optics and sunglasses (not the coarse type for cleaning cars) in by back pocket and since buying the iPhone 13 Pro Max I bought a new one which I keep in a resealable plastic bag in my top pocket.  On the few occasions when I've accidentally touched the iPhone camera lenses, or when I've handed the phone to someone to look at pictures and they've touched the lenses with their fingers... I've had to clean the lenses with it.  Since the sapphire glass is hard to scratch, they clean easily with the microfiber cloth.  Note that only the outermost element of each lens has a Sapphire Crystal element - which Apples calls a "Sapphire Crystal Lens Cover".  If ever you have to clean a lens and you don't have a microfiber cloth on hand, consider using a CLEAN piece of cotton (which includes an unworn t-shirt or even cotton underpants).  Tissues and toilet paper are made from wood pulp and may remove optical nano coatings on lenses.  Sunscreen is particularly harmful since it contains highly abrasive zinc and titanium oxides mixed in penetrative oils ... so always be wary of that. 
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Originally, the entire touch screen was meant to be made from Sapphire crystal grown in Arizona by a company called GT Advanced Technologies.  The lenses themselves have a protective outer lens element grown from Sapphire.  To keep production volume high and costs and production times low, these crystals are thin and are really for protection only.  The decision to make them this thin was due to an early Apple contract with a company in the US that was supposed to create and engineer the lab-grown sapphire crystals for the iPhone 5/6 but their repeated power failures resulted in ruined batched of sapphire crystals... which need to be maintained under heat and pressure for long periods of time to grow the sapphires.  It took a minimum of 17 days to make each crystal for Apple devices, a process that used to take months.  Impurities ended up ruining several batches and the entire operation was moved offshore after the contract was dissolved due to repeated production failures.  Apple ended up investing all their sapphire crystal money in their Apple Watch instead of touchscreens... and the thumbprint reader button is also comprised of Sapphire crystal.
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The case I use at present

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The iPhone case I'm using protects the lenses quite well whenever the phone is lens-down on a table.  Note that scratch testing showed the sapphire glass on the new iPhone lenses did indeed scratch with a sharp Stanley knife and were perhaps just slightly below sapphire (which is below a diamond (10) at 9.0 on the Moh's hardness test).  But they are still extremely scratch resistant, certainly more resistant from scratches than actual glass.  Silica and quartz in sand is highly abrasive but I'd guess the iPhone sapphire lens covers would withstand most damage from ordinary grit if you blew away any surface debris first before cleaning with a microfiber cloth.
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Apple responded to questions when the older iPhone 7 was released and confirmed that they use actual sapphire for the lenses (lab grown, of course) rather than a fusion of sapphire coatings on glass.  They also confirmed that scratch testing being performed by reviewers were being conducted under the wrong testing conditions (grinding a knife tip into the sapphire lens is not considered typical usage and testing compared to abrasion).  The proper way to test with the Moh's Scale Of Hardness requires the subject material to be rubbed against various specific materials of increased hardness rather than impacting the lens directly with a conical shaped sharp tip.
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For those of you in countries with Sunglasses Hut stores or similar, I'd recommend buying a microfiber cloth from them to use when wiping camera and phone lenses.  They can be washed and reused for years though they will absorb oils and even washing detergent... but it's often better to keep older microfiber cloths for basic applications and buy a new cloth for cleaning quality lenses.  When carrying my iPhone in my shirt pocket while jogging, I wear a thick-weave cotton shirt and the iPhone case I'm using seems to pull tight and keeps the lenses from touching the cotton, not that this would be a problem considering how soft cotton is.  From what I can see, there's an oleophobic coating on the touchscreen and the lenses which reduced the chance of oils and dust from sticking to the iPhone lenses.  This will eventually wear off after 6 months of regular use but can also be reapplied.

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Regards,
Marco Nero.

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