Will the protective glasses become strong enough that users no longer have to experience stress with every fall of the smartphone? This question was answered by vice-president Corning, the largest manufacturer of protective glasses for electronics.
Fortunately, the protective glasses are becoming stronger every year, and the synonym for this trend for many was the name Gorilla Glass. It’s been 10 years since Corning released the first generation of Gorilla Glass, and it’s estimated that during this time, these glasses were installed on more than 5 billion devices.
John Bain, vice president and general manager of Gorilla Glass in Corning, told (here and below – his quotes):
10 years ago we decided to create a reinforced protective glass, which can not be scratched or smashed. And this is still our goal. Today we are focused on it, but already now we have made great progress.
Glass can still be broken
Compared with the original Gorilla Glass, the recently released Gorilla Glass 5 is much stronger. If you install them on absolutely identical smartphones, then the version with modern glass can safely drop from the height of 4 times more, and it will withstand.
During testing, Gorilla Glass 5 survived a fall from a height of 1.6 and 1.8 meters (Bain called it “from the height of Selfie”) to a 120 grit sandpaper. This is about the same as dropping a smartphone on asphalt or concrete.
Bain points out:
10 years ago we were visited by inspiration: what if we strengthen the glass by squeezing the surface?
In recent years, Gorilla Glass has been using ever stronger compression to deprive the glass of any flaws. And this is excellent, given how smartphone manufacturers rely on these glasses in their designs. Screens are becoming larger, frames are shrinking, and cases when users break their smartphones, does not become less.
The reason why we can not rely entirely on already strong enough Gorilla Glass – it is in the trend for thin frameless.
Manufacturers want to reduce the thickness of their devices, sacrificing the thickness of the glass. So when developing new generations of Gorilla Glass, the question always arises: the maximum protection against damage, or the minimum thickness for the sake of a subtle, attractive appearance?
Although the glass and get better every year, cracked and broken displays are still quite a frequent phenomenon. At the same time, it is impossible to provide accurate statistics, since users repair screens in a huge number of different places – from official services to private repair shops near the house. Some try to replace the glass or the entire display by yourself. In addition, a huge number of people simply continue to walk with a spoiled screen.
A recent study showed that in the UK, half of the smartphone owners at least once had a screen broken. 20% of Britons also admitted that they live with a broken smartphone for more than 6 months, and 14% were injured because of broken glass.
No matter how good the glass, it still beats. Glass breaks down when two things happen. There is a hidden flaw in it, which is under pressure. The result is a broken screen.
If you dropped the smartphone, turned the screen up and found that the glass is intact, it may not be exactly. From falling on the asphalt, an invisible flaw may appear, which will play a role in the next fall. In the same way, you can leave the micro damages and keys that you carry in one pocket with the phone.
In our laboratory, we broke thousands of smartphones – specifically to study this process. Since our company has been manufacturing glass for 165 years, Corning has the best glass specialists in the world. And no one knows how to strengthen the protective panels more than we do. Gorilla Glass today surpasses any other protective material.
And what about scratches?
Several years ago there were a lot of rumours that Apple would use sapphire glass instead of Gorilla Glass on the iPhone 6. Although this material has excellent resistance to scratches, when it falls it is more likely to break when compared to the same Gorilla Glass. Apple eventually chose Corning’s security panels, but disputes about what’s more important – crack protection or protection from scratches – are still being actively pursued.
We try to do everything in our power to improve both parameters, but often we have to choose. Since it is much more frightening for users to break a smartphone than to scratch it, in the last generations of Gorilla Glass we focused on preventing damages when falling, rather than on resistance to mechanical damage such as scratches.
We note that the company also produces glass Gorilla Glass SR +, whose main emphasis is precisely on the protection against scratches. Mostly it is used in smartwatches – in particular, Samsung Gear S3 and Acer Leap Ware. In the future, Corning will supply protective glass for other manufacturers’ smartwatches.
This is a composite material, so you get a drop protection at the level of Gorilla Glass and scratch resistance at the level of sapphire panels. In addition, such glass is almost not glare, which is particularly attractive to manufacturers.
However, without problems, it does not do. The production of Gorilla Glass SR + is much more complicated, which affects its price. Nevertheless, we may well see this type of glass in one of the next generation of smartphones, if Corning manages to reduce its cost price.
Magnet for fingerprints
Besides cracks and scratches, there are other unpleasant things that the smartphone owner is facing. One of them is permanent fingerprints on the glass surface. Especially from this suffer the owners of the iPhone X, Galaxy S8, LG V30 and other models, in which the rear panel is also covered with glass. You are holding a new smartphone with a stunning design – and in a few minutes, all the beauty is lost behind the fingerprints of your fingers.
Therefore, you have to carry a special napkin to clean the screen. Fortunately, the Corning glasses are coated with an oleophobic composition, which makes it easy to clean them.
The material repels the oil, so wiping it with a napkin is easy. But to make sure that the fat spots do not stay on the glass, it is much more difficult. Such a coating is unstable and, together with those, is difficult to produce.
Since it is impossible to completely prevent prints on the screen, you can use one trick to make them invisible.
On the back of the smartphone, we use a special anti-reflective coating, which we call satin. However, if you use it on a high resolution display, you will get an unusual effect: the display starts to sparkle.
The fact is that such a coating dissipates light, thus “levelling” oil spots. However, when the screen resolution is above 200 pixels per inch, bright spots appear on it. That’s why this technology is not applicable to modern smartphones.
Corning has also developed an antimicrobial coating.
We added chemicals to the glass itself, which kill microbes on its surface. This technology is already interested in medical institutions and manufacturers of public displays – like those used in ATMs.
If you are surprised why a smartphone needs protection from microbes at all, then statistics will most clearly explain this. In 2012, the University of Arizona conducted a study in which it was found that on cellular phones is 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats. A newer study is based on the smartphones of 27 high school students. On each of them, more than 17,000 copies of bacterial genes were found.
There are, where to develop
But back to protecting displays. Although Corning continues to improve Gorilla Glass, in the near future it is not advisable to give up additional layers of tempered glass and covers. At least, if you do not want to see on the display of your smartphone scratches or cracks.
Plastic protective films easily scratch and do not protect the device when it falls. However, using a dense protective glass for these purposes is a great idea.
In this case, it is worth to be ready, that the protective glasses need to be changed. Of course, they do not know how to recover, and scratches at any moment become too much, which affects the appearance of the smartphone. However, there is no more reliable alternative yet, so please be patient – and glasses.
Despite all its shortcomings, glass remains an excellent material for use in smartphones. Transparent, pleasant to the touch, chemically stable and providing good signal reception (just like wireless charging), it can also be improved with additional coatings for different purposes. Undoubtedly, it will remain a popular material for smartphone manufacturers for a long time.
Manufacturers strive for a more ergonomic, slimmer and elegant design. At the same time, they are interested in improving the strength of displays, and this is exactly what we are constantly working on.
Prior to the release of Gorilla Glass 6 is still about a year, but it certainly will introduce a new level of strength. Perhaps we will never see a completely unbreakable glass, but with the development of technology, one day we can stop panicking that the display could break from falling over the asphalt.