Apple iPhone 5 uses a unique piece of material to cover the camera on iPhone 5, Sapphire, which is stronger that normal glass and considered to be a very strong material. Current leader in smartphone display is Gorilla Glass with their latest product being pushed on to many smartphones, but Sapphire is 4 times more stronger than the latest version of Gorilla Glass and costs almost 10 times higher than Gorilla Glass. Currently a typical smartphone display made out of Gorilla Glass costs around $3 and one made out of Sapphire is $30. Sapphire is a crystal form of Aluminium Oxide that is not only stronger than glass but also lot more scratch resistant, future production advancements show that Sapphire will cut down cost by as much as 35% in next few years making it more affordable.
GT Advanced Technologies, New Hampshire, has been developing ultra thin layers of Sapphire which are being tested out for smartphone displays by combining them with a layer of normal glass coated on them giving it more strength and cutting down the cost drastically. But further developments in furnace technologies will make manufacturing much cheaper says their representatives. Current set up of GT ensures that they don not need major changes in manufacturing process either.
GT also expects that the price of Sapphire glass will come down to something as low as 3 to 4 times that of Gorilla Glass considering not much drop in price of Gorilla Glass in coming years. This would make things interesting for premium phones like iPhone that have higher level of margins to play around with such technologies and ensure better products for the users.