Mobile devices are not just more prevalent, they're also more sophisticated, says Paul Beaulieu, vice president of the sapphire materials group for materials and equipment provider GT Advanced Technologies. "Certainly one of the trends in mobile devices is that they're thinner, lighter, and more widespread," Bealieu said. "All of those things contribute to higher breakage rates, given current materials."
That doesn't sound too appealing to device owners who, after dropping a couple hundred dollars on a smartphone--or more on one of Apple's tablets--would like to see their investment withstand an accidental plunge into a puddle or some excessive scratching from some stray grains of sand and grit. And that provides an opportunity for device makers to stand out from their competitors.
"A lot of [device makers] are looking for differentiation," said Bealieu. More durable devices is one way to pull that off.
It makes sense when you think about. Processor specs don't really resonate with the average phone shopper, and there's only so much you can do to bolster the built-in cameras on smartphones. But make a device that's more impervious to water, dust, and damage than what your rivals can offer? That's a great way to grab everyone's attention--even on a showfloor as crowded as the one at CES.
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