Is it possible to create an unbreakable smartphone? Expert Opinion

Can safety glasses be strong enough so that users no longer have to test

stress every time a smartphone crashes? The vice president of Corning, the largest manufacturer of safety glass for electronics, answered this question.

Each of us at least once, but dropped the smartphone. Even if we are talking about low altitude, it’s still scary to look at the display: what if it cracked? As a rule, a broken screen is not included in the list of warranty service, so you will have to pay for repairs from your wallet. For example, Apple services charge $ 279 to repair the iPhone X.

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Fortunately, safety glasses are becoming strongerevery year, and the name Gorilla Glass has become synonymous with this trend for many. It has been 10 years since Corning launched the first generation of Gorilla Glass, and, according to rough estimates, during this time these glasses were installed on more than 5 billion devices.

John Bane, vice president and general manager of the Corning Gorilla Glass division, said (hereinafter his quotes):

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10 years ago we decided to create an enhanced protectiveglass that cannot be scratched or broken. And this is still our goal. Today, we are focused on it, but now we have made tremendous progress.

Glass can still be broken

Compared to 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 be safely dropped from a height of 4 times more, and it will withstand.

During testing, Gorilla Glass 5 withstooda fall from a height of 1.6 and 1.8 meters (Bane called it “from a height of a selfie”) on sandpaper with a grit of 120 grit. This is about the same as dropping a smartphone on asphalt or concrete.

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Bane notes:

10 years ago we were visited by inspiration: what if glass is strengthened by compressing the surface?

In recent years, Gorilla Glass usedincreasingly tight compression to strip glass of any flaws. And that's great, considering how much smartphone makers rely on these glasses in their designs. Screens are getting bigger, frames are shrinking, and there are fewer cases when users break their smartphones.

The reason why we cannot fully rely on the already sufficiently durable Gorilla Glass is precisely in the trend for thin frameless frames.

Manufacturers want to reduce the thickness of theirdevices sacrificing glass thickness. So when developing new generations of Gorilla Glass, the question always arises: maximum protection against damage, or minimum thickness for the sake of a thin, attractive appearance?

Hidden damage

Although glass gets better every year,cracked and broken displays are still quite common. At the same time, it is impossible to give accurate statistics, since users repair displays 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 on their own. In addition, a huge number of people just continue to walk with a damaged screen.

A recent study found that inIn the UK, half of smartphone owners have had their screens broken at least once. 20% of Britons also admitted that they had been living with a broken smartphone for more than 6 months, and 14% were injured due to broken glass.

No matter how good the glass is, it still breaks. Glass breaks when two things happen. It has a hidden flaw that is under pressure. The result is a broken screen.

If you drop your smartphone, flip the screenup and found that the glass is intact, this may not be entirely true. From falling onto asphalt an invisible flaw may appear, which will play its role in the next fall. In the same way, keys that you carry in the same pocket as your phone can leave microdamage.

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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 world's best glass experts. And no one knows more about reinforcing protective panels than we do. Gorilla Glass is today superior to any other protective material.

What about scratches?

A few years ago, there were a lot of rumors aboutthat Apple will use sapphire crystal instead of Gorilla Glass in iPhone 6. Although this material has excellent scratch resistance, if it falls, it will be much more likely to break when compared with the same Gorilla Glass. Apple ultimately opted for Corning dashboards, but debate about what's more important — crack protection or scratch protection — is still underway.

We try to do everything in our power toimprovements to both parameters, but often have to choose. Since it’s a lot worse for users to break a smartphone than to scratch it, in the last generations of Gorilla Glass we focused on preventing damage from falling, rather than resistance to mechanical damage like scratches.

Note that the company also produces glassGorilla Glass SR +, the main focus of which is precisely on protection from scratches. It is mainly used in smart watches - in particular, Samsung Gear S3 and Acer Leap Ware. In the future, Corning will supply safety glasses for smart watches from other manufacturers.

This is a composite material, so you getprotection against falling at the level of Gorilla Glass and resistance to scratches at the level of sapphire panels. In addition, such glasses practically do not glare, which is especially attractive to manufacturers.

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However, it does not do without problems. 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 generations of smartphones, if Corning manages to reduce its cost.

Fingerprint Magnet

In addition to cracks and scratches, there are other unpleasantthings faced by the owner of smartphones. One of them is permanent fingerprints on a glass surface. Owners of the iPhone X, Galaxy S8, LG V30 and other models, in which the back panel is also covered with glass, are especially affected. You are holding a new smartphone with a stunning design - and in a few minutes all the beauty is lost behind the prints of your fingers.

Therefore, you have to carry a special napkin to clean the screen. Fortunately, Corning glasses are coated with an oleophobic composition, making it easy to clean.

Material repels oil, so wipe it offwith a napkin - as easy as shelling pears. But making it so that greasy spots do not remain on the glass at all is much more difficult. Such a coating is unstable and at the same time difficult to manufacture.

Since you can’t completely prevent screen prints, you can use one trick to make them invisible.

On the back of the smartphone we usespecial anti-reflective coating, which we call satin. However, if you use it on a high-resolution display, you get an unusual effect: the display starts to sparkle.

The fact is that such a coating scatters the light,Thereby “leveling” the oil stains. However, when the screen resolution is above 200 pixels per inch, bright spots appear on it. That is why this technology is not applicable to modern smartphones.

Corning also developed an antimicrobial coating.

We added chemicals to the glass itself, whichkill microbes on its surface. This technology has already become interested in medical institutions and manufacturers of public displays - such as those used in ATMs.

If you are surprised why a smartphone is needed at allprotection against germs, then this is most clearly explained by statistics. In 2012, Arizona University conducted a study that revealed that there were 10 times more bacteria on cell phones than most toilet seats. A newer study is based on the smartphones of 27 high school students. Over 17,000 copies of bacterial genes were found on each of them.

There is where to develop

But back to protecting displays. Although Corning continues to improve Gorilla Glass, in the near future we do not recommend abandoning additional layers of tempered glass and covers. At least if you do not want to see scratches or cracks on the display of your smartphone.

Plastic protective films are easily scratched and do not protect the device when dropped. However, using a thick protective glass for these purposes is a great idea.

In this case, it is worthwhile to be prepared that protective glassesneed to change. Of course, they do not know how to recover, and at some point there are too many scratches, which affects the appearance of the smartphone. However, there is no more reliable alternative yet, so be patient - and glasses.

Despite all its flaws, the glass remainsGreat material for use on smartphones. Transparent, pleasant to the touch, chemically stable and providing good signal reception (as well as wireless charging), it can also be improved with additional coatings for various purposes. Undoubtedly, it will remain popular with smartphone manufacturers for a long time to come.

Manufacturers strive for a more ergonomic, thin 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.

Before the release of Gorilla Glass 6, there is still aboutyears, however, it will definitely present a new level of strength. We may never see 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.