We’ve seen transparent phone concepts in the past, particularly from Samsung, but none of them have been presented as an actual publicly available option. One of the biggest problems was the fact that a transparent display couldn’t also be a touch screen since the digitizer isn’t a transparent object itself. Now Corning, who makes the ever-popular Gorilla Glass that’s used on so many smartphones nowadays, has developed a new way of creating glass that builds the circuits right into the glass itself. This method of building the glass uses waveguides, which are simply devices to guide electromagnetic waves from endpoint to endpoint, that are laser-etched into the glass itself. This not only creates a smarter glass by making the actual glass the electronic object, it allows the screen of the device to be completely transparent and in turn makes the device thinner. With this technology all the other circuitry, including the processor and other functional parts of the device, can be housed away from the screen, giving rise to completely new design methods instead of the traditional candy bar slab that we’re all used to with modern smartphones.
What sorts of actual real-life situations can we expect to find these new display types in? Back in March we saw Samsung patent a new type of digital camera that has a transparent viewfinder, which obviously makes using a digital camera a little easier since you can just see what’s happening through the display instead of having to look over the camera itself to position the shot correctly. Outside of this we’ve seen foldable phones that are also transparent, which may be less useful in some situations, but could prove to be incredibly useful in others. Corning has also built temperature sensors into the glass itself, which could potentially improve touch screen sensitivity in ways we haven’t seen before.
When is this technology coming to the market? Not this year for sure, but Corning assures us that we could see devices with this technology within a year if serious interest is made into pushing the product into a production environment. There’s still more development needed to finalize the technology here, but we could be looking at the end of bezels and other “hindering” parts of smartphone and other smart device design with the advent of this invention.