Scratching the Surface: Sapphire vs Glass Apple Watch

If you've ordered an Apple Watch (or plan to soon), you had a tough decision to make. Either pay a little more for steel and sapphire to protect your investment or guess that the first generation will be quickly obsolete, making your investment a throwaway affair. Then the plan might be to hand down, sell or recycle an Apple Watch Sport that's fairly beat up and has scratches on the crystal. But will anyone want it given its version 1.0 functionality?

It's a real guess at this point how quickly the Apple Watch will become obsolete in its first version. From the articles that have been published so far, the Apple Watch has an enormous amount of functionality. That considerable functionality isn't going to vanish, but the looks of the Apple Watch Sport could.

Some rigorous scratch testing at this point would really help, and now we have it.

Consumer reports took various tools to an Apple Watch Sport and a (steel) Apple Watch to see how the glass and sapphire surfaces respectively held up to deliberate scratching. In "The science behind smartwatch scratch resistance" C.R. used the standard Mohs hardness scale which is explained in the article. On that scale, sapphire is rated a 9, second only to diamond at 10. The glass used in the Sport Watch, as expected, didn't fare as well.

So how did Apple's watches fare? The sapphire crystal performed as expected, which is to say very well. It survived a 9-rated pick from our kit. The Apple Watch Sport made it up to a 7-rated pick without damage, but was scratched by an 8-rated pick.

The good news is that, in a more informal test, a steel key didn't scratch the Ion-X glass. Even so, in my own experience with a Rado sapphire watch, it's impossible to mar the sapphire surface, even after years of use. The C.R. article fills in the details to help make that critical judgment. That is, a year from now, do you want your Apple Watch to look as good as the day it came out of the box? No matter what Apple announces?

Next page: the tech news debris for the week of April 27. Microsoft upgrades itself.

Page 2 - The Tech News Debris for the Week of April 27


IIImage credit: Apple

If you have an Apple Watch on order and are eagerly awaiting its arrival, as I am, this looks like a good place to start after it's powered up. "How to make instant sense of the Apple Watch user interface when yours arrives." Here's another version: "Visual Primer for Navigating Apple Watch."

This week, an IHS teardown revealed that "New Apple Watch Has Lowest Ratio of Hardware Costs to Retail Price."

It's hard to say if one should be upset about Apple's cost of materials for the Apple Watch compared to its retail pricing. It would be interesting to compare that to other mid-range watches. Plus, the Apple Watch is a risky, expensive item to market, sell and support. And so, one has to avoid getting too crazy about the report that "Apple Watch Sport hardware costs only about 24 percent of MSRP; lowest of any Apple product examined by IHS." After all, the article points out: "Estimated hardware cost to MSRP ratios for other Apple products reviewed by IHS are in the range of 29 to 38 percent."

On to Microsoft

There were several articles this week that had balanced, appropriate praised for what Microsoft has been doing lately. That is, bracnching out and providing solutions, not shackles.

Microsoft these days is all about how to deliver useful products on all the platforms that we all use, not just PCs and Windows. It's amazing how Satya Nadella is turning Microsoft into a company that's to be congratulated and respected for its efforts instead of frequently ridiculed for its wrongheadedness.  Evidently, Steve Ballmer's technical leadership was inadequate. 

It seems like some companies need to get on board with more rigorous authentication of callers who come at them out of the blue. For example, "Hackers used a surprisingly simple method to access Tesla's website and Twitter account."

Jonny Evans at Computerworld explains NVMe interfaces for SSDs, introduced in OS X 10.10.3. "NVMe -- the future of the SSD Mac."

Finally, one might ask, how are 4K TVs selling? Data from IHS says: "4K Comprised 11% of March LCD TV Shipments." That's not a great number, but I can understand why. Many people just bought a new, discounted LCD or Plasma HDTV at Christmas at a fire sale price. So long as the industry is unloading 65-inch 1080p TVs at CostCo for under $1,000, who's going to buy a 4K TV?

Another factor is the science of the pixels. The chart I used shows that at my viewing distance of 8 feet (2.4 meters), I need a 65-inch 4K TV to benefit. A 65-inch 4K TV is a lot more expensive than a 50-inch, but no one sits close enough to an affordable 50-inch to benefit from 4K. Oops.

The TV industry has several problems: perceptions, technology and legacy production. It'll be interesting to see if they can solve them all by Christmas 2015.

By the way, looking around, I just found this article. It's not recent, but it's very good. "What is 4K TV and Ultra HD?"


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed by a discussion of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.