Apple just announced that its new Watch will sport a high-quality sapphire Retina display that serves as a touchscreen and can detect force, a new paradigm for interfaces on wearables that pervades the entire UI. Apple touted the capabilities of the new screen during the announcement, saying the device can determine between a tap and a press.
Apple VP Kevin Lynch demoed the device onstage, explaining the new Force Touch feature. Force touches are essentially new gestures that allow the user to better customize the device and dive deeper into the interface. It's a new idea, and we're curious how intuitive it is in practice.
Meanwhile, the new screen technology is certainly a departure from Apple's reliance on Corning's Gorilla Glass, and the new material is also expected to make the wearable tougher and more scratch-resistant. Sapphire glass already graces the surfaces of the iPhone 5 and 5S' Touch ID fingerprint sensors and rear cameras. However, covering an entire screen with the premium material is a much taller order. Manufacturing with sapphire is a difficult, expensive process — one that required Apple to build a plant in Arizona to pull it off — and it appears the new Watch is the fruit of those labors.
Sapphire is second only to diamond on Moh's hardness scale
Of course, the biggest concern with sapphire glass is cracking. While significantly tougher — sapphire is second to only diamond on Moh's scale of mineral hardness — it can be brittle and break upon impact if processed incorrectly. It stands to reason that Apple invested a lot of money to prevent that from happening, but it remains to be seen how well it holds up after long-term use. Still, you might have to try harder to crack it since it'll live on your wrist.