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Huawei Ascend P7 smartphone to get sapphire glitz

In its current version, the Huawei Ascend P7 uses Gorilla Glass 3 for its screen.
Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Huawei is planning to try its hand at working with sapphire, a new report claims.

The China-based mobile and telecommunications equipment maker is aiming to launch a sapphire-enclosed version of its flagship Ascend P7 smartphone, the company told Engadget in an interview published Tuesday. The first batch of the devices will launch in September, followed by another in November, according to Engadget. The sapphire edition will be available in limited quantity.

CNET has contacted Huawei for comment. We will update this story when we have more information.

Sapphire has quickly become the next-generation material for device makers looking to take on Apple. Rumors over the last year have suggested that Apple will bundle more sapphire in the iPhone 6. That device, which is slated to be announced next month, is expected to come with a sapphire screen.

The appeal of sapphire lies in its strength — it’s the second-hardest material, after diamond. Whether it’s heavy pressure or severe attempts to scratch a display, sapphire holds up. Apple has already brought sapphire to its handsets to cover the camera lens and protect its TouchID sensor. Several other companies besides Apple and Huawei are expected to make greater use of the material.

Huawei isn’t planning to make any major changes to the Ascend P7 other than its sapphire modification, according to the report. The P7 is the China-based company’s flagship smartphone and runs Android 4.4 (KitKat). It comes with a quad-core processor and 1080p 5-inch display. In its review of the Ascend P7 earlier this year, CNET Reviews gave the device a rating of three stars out of five , saying that while the P7 is “skinny and not too expensive, its unimpressive power and sometimes awkward interface makes it an acceptable — albeit uninspiring choice.”

Huawei is competing hard in its home market of China. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal over the weekend, Huawei’s consumer business group head, Richard Yu, said that the Chinese market is overrun with devices, making it hard for any product maker to stand out. He indicated that the best way to stand apart is via hardware, since most companies are using Android in their devices. Sapphire might just what Huawei needs to separate itself in that competitive market.

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