Dakale Insists Human Factors Caused Cracked Sapphire Phone Screens

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The Apple iPhone 6/ 6 Plus might not be featuring sapphire screen display, but Chinese smartphone manufacturer Dakale has went ahead in using the material in its latest model Dakale 3, which is priced at a mere RMB 1,499 (US $241.61) reported Chinese online media Forward.

Consumers have recently complained the iPhone 6 clone, Dakale 3, sapphire phone screen would unexplainably crack. Dakale has insisted, though, damages were caused by human factors, and that repair fees required an additional RMB 500 or more.

Overview of the situation

Dakale 3 crowdfunding project launched on China’s JD Finance platform on Dec. 9, 2014 received backing from 10,000 supporters. Sapphire screen display was used as the phone’s marketing pitch, and the following promotion was used to attract supporters: “Crowdfunding supporters would be entitled to a lifetime of annual free phone replacements.” However, some users started to complain the Dakale 3 screens would unexpectedly crack, and the same issues were reported in the Home buttons or speakers. Fissures starting from Home buttons and speakers would spread to the entire screen display, causing the screen to become inoperable. Consumers that sent the phone to the manufacturers for assessment were told the damaged screens were caused by human factors, and they would have to pay additional maintenance fees. One of the consumers has formed a consumer rights group on Chinese social media platform QQ that has attracted several hundred members to join. Many of these consumers claimed the screens naturally cracked without external impact.

Analysis of sapphire display cracks

Analysis by Chinese netizens point out Dakale 3 cracked sapphire screen displays were caused by the manufacturing process, and that the speaker and Home buttons were unevenly placed. This would have caused uneven pressure on the sapphire screens that led to fissures. In addition, Dakale 3 display screen might have had numerous tiny fractures that expanded over time. Strong lighting is required to inspect whether the Dakale 3 had rifts. In addition, further probes need to be done to assess the impact of high or low temperatures that causes the material to expand or contract, and potentially aggravating the cracks.

Dakale’s official statement has been human factors caused the cracking displays, while technicians and engineer inspections also supported these claims.

The question of whether the damaged display is inherently flawed or human factors were at play is still hotly contended, and it is difficult to judge either claim. It is highly probable that both factors were involved. The display and phone design might have been problematic, which caused it to easily crack. However, if the manufacturer insisted it was human factors and neglected phone quality, than cracked sapphire screens will become a huge joke instead of a marketing gimmick.

A comparison of sapphire screen displays

Smartphone manufacturers have always been focused on smartphone displays. As phone screens became larger, broken screens are sometimes an issue. Display materials have also advanced, the extremely hard and robust sapphire screens are viewed as the best replacement for Corning’s Gorilla Glass. Yet, sapphire displays are very costly, has low transmittance and is inflexible compared to glass.

Apple has skipped launching sapphire screened iPhone 6, but it is still using sapphire in camera lens and Home buttons. The company has incorporated the material in Apple Watch and Apple Watch Edition, which has been proven to be highly scratch resistant by a third party. The Apple Watch much smaller screen, though, indicates it is less prone to cracks.

Other Chinese smartphone makers that have used sapphire include Huawei’s limited sapphire edition P7 phones, which is sold for RMB 4,688. Vivo has also launched a limited edition sapphire screened smartphone for RMB 2,998. These manufacturers have released limited editions of sapphire phone, with relatively high prices.

The biggest issue with Dakale 3 is still the display design. Cost pressures to launch a RMB 1,499 smartphone would make the public question the quality of the product. From a technology perspective, there are still many obstacles for sapphire screen displays to overcome.

Dakale 3’s publicity stunt of offering lifelong free phone replacements for Dakale 3 has backfired. The way the company handled the whole situation of charging consumers a third of the phone retail price for repairs has made consumers question its credibility. Dakale is dealing with more than just chipped sapphire screens, as consumers trust in the company also breaks down. 

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