Tech Talk: Will Gorilla Glass 5 Make Sapphire Screens Expendable?

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Will Gorilla Glass 5 make Sapphire screens expendable? The short answer is, “Yes.” However, it has taken quite a bit to reach that conclusion. There is nothing quite like that feeling the moment you realize that your smartphone has just slipped out of your hand and is heading toward that concrete sidewalk or driveway. It is like that slow motion part in a horror picture – your face contorts, your muscles tighten up, acid forms in your stomach, and you may even let out a curse word…or two. Sometimes the screen cracks a little, but is still usable, other times the crack is large and renders the device inoperable, and for the few lucky ones, there is no damage at all.

It is times like these which caused Corning to develop Gorilla Glass – that and the scratching of our displays. While Gorilla Glass was getting the durability part down, scratching was still a problem – those nasty coins, keys, makeup cases, and pocket knives can do a job on a screen after hundreds of times of you sliding your device in and out of your pocket. This is where sapphires screens came in to save the day – as sapphire is one of the hardest known materials next to diamonds. GT Advanced in Arizona seemed to have the necessary furnaces, equipment, and processes to melt the material and provide ultra-thin, scratch proof “surface covers” to protect the next iPhone displays. However, about nine months before they were to deliver, major problems arose and Apple ditched the entire deal and stuck with Gorilla Glass.

While sapphire glass is more scratch resistant, it is more fragile during drops – something very important for a mobile smartphone. If there is even the slightest flaw in a sapphire screen, accidentally dropping it or getting it hit by anything solid is bad news as it’s even more fragile in these instances. Making sapphire screens was a difficult enough process, but to mass produce a sapphire screen would be an extremely expensive and almost impossible task. One thing that can be said for Corning, they do not sit back on their accomplishments – there was a time when the GT Advanced claim to have the capability to produce sapphire displays scared the heck out of Corning. They are constantly developing thinner, stronger, and more scratch-resistant screens and are now just introducing Gorilla Glass 5 – their best product to date. Corning was always concerned about drops from the waist, where most people carry their phones, but then realized that people hold their phones much higher and more awkwardly to take selfies. So they raised the bar for protection against heights of 1.6-meter drops onto hard, rough surfaces with a survival rate of 80-percent of the time. The popularity of Gorilla Glass is known around the world with 73-percent of smartphones using it on 4.5 billion devices over the years.


Gorilla Glass 5 is already shipping to vendors and the first smartphone to use Gorilla Glass 5 is the newly announced Samsung Galaxy Note 7. Other devices will follow this fall and with the introduction of Gorilla Glass 5 and Corning’s commitment to improving it, use of sapphire screens could become a simple experiment or for some ultra-luxury smartphones that cost thousands of dollars. However, for the mass produced smartphone, sapphire will be too prohibited in cost with too low a volume.

Just to throw another display in the mix to further debunk sapphire screens – let’s not forget the new ShatterShield display from Motorola found on their new Moto Z Force device. It is a five-layer design that has been tested and clearly works in preventing cracks or shatters from five-foot drops and is guaranteed for four years. The outside layer is the protective lens, the second layer is the interior lens, the third layer is the dual touch layer, the fourth layer is the AMOLED display, and the fifth layer is an aluminum chassis. Corning is working on a more durable and scratch-resistant glass – of course, Corning would love to have the scratch resistance of sapphire and are working on a project they announced earlier this year called, “Phire.” It will be another upgrade to their Gorilla Glass line that will combine the extreme strength of Gorilla Glass with higher scratch-resistance. Corning has no time frame when this new product will come to market, but for now, we have Gorilla Glass 5 to cover our clumsiness.