"Lensgate": is the iPhone X camera lens cover susceptible to cracking in normal use?
After damaging revelations that Apple knew its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models were more prone to bending ahead of their launch, new reports have emerged that its flagship iPhone X models could be susceptible to rear lens covers cracking under normal usage. Apple customers are complaining on an Apple support forum thread that their iPhone X lens covers are cracking, despite never having dropped their device.
According to Apple’s “Tech Specs” for the iPhone X, the rear camera lens cover is made from sapphire crystal, the same material that Apple has been using in its rear camera lenses since the malleable iPhone 6 range was introduced. Apple also uses sapphire crystal on the Home button material used in its iPhone models fitted with Touch ID, like the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Although Apple attempted to bring sapphire crystal displays to market through its failed partnership with GT Advanced Technologies in 2014, it prefers sapphire crystal for Touch ID and and lens covers as it is much more resistant to scratching than even the ion exchange-enhanced Corning Gorilla Glass.
However, sapphire crystal is not without its short comings. When asked in 2014 about the possibility that Apple could switch from Gorilla Glass to sapphire crystal for its iPhone displays, Corning Glass SVP Tony Tripeny had this to say:
When we look at it, we see a lot of disadvantages of sapphire versus Gorilla Glass. It’s about 10 times more expensive. It’s about 1.6 times heavier. It’s environmentally unfriendly. It takes about 100 times more energy to generate a sapphire crystal than it does glass. It transmits less light which…means either dimmer devices or shorter battery life. It continues to break. I think while it’s a scratch resistant product it still breaks and our testing says that Gorilla Glass [can take] about 2.5 times more pressure that [sapphire] can take... So when we look at it, we think from an overall industry and trend that is not attractive in consumer electronics.
Anecdotally, it was only last week that this writer was in a Telstra Australia store in Sydney when the conversation turned to the iPhone X and what I thought about mine. The Telstra store salesperson then mentioned that he’d had at least five customers come back into the store complaining that their iPhone X lens cover had cracked in the past few days. At the time I was surprised to hear this, as it hadn’t surfaced as an issue -- until now, just a week later.
If I was to speculate as to what could be happening, it is clear that the lens cover noticeably protrudes from the rear of the iPhone X body. Unlike previous iPhone designs, the rear camera on the iPhone X sits almost flush with the rear of the iPhone X cases that Apple has specially designed for it. This is also true of many third-party cases designed for the iPhone X as well. It could well be that the sapphire lens cover of the iPhone X is more susceptible to cracking under the what looks like the additional pressure it is being exposed to. As Corning's Tony Tripeny points out, sapphire crystal is 250 percent more susceptible to cracking under pressure than Corning Gorilla Glass.
Could this be the start of iPhone X “lensgate”?