Corning’s Gorilla Glass vs. sapphire for mobile touch displays

“Corning has begun a pre-emptive strike against a competitor to Gorilla Glass, its product widely used in the displays of many smartphones,” John P. Mello Jr. reports for TechHive. “The company has posted an article to the Web previewing the next generation of its product, as well as a stress-test video [see below].”

“In its article, Corning maintained that Gorilla Glass has a number of benefits over sapphire as the cover glass for mobile devices, such as smartphones. It asserts that Gorilla Glass is lighter than sapphire; consumes less energy and costs less to produce; is brighter; is thinner so it can be curved and more responsive to touch; and is stronger,” Mello Jr. reports. “While Corning’s test suggests that Gorilla Glass may be more resistant to sheer pressure, the claims don’t address a major draw for sapphire screens. One of the applications for sapphire has been in high-end watches because it’s immune to scratching. Only diamond or other sapphire can scratch sapphire.”

Mello Jr. reports, “Sapphire’s immunity to scratching is also the reason Apple uses it to protect the iPhone 5’s camera lens, and may use it to protect the rumored fingerprint reader in the next version of its smartphone… The barrier to sapphire being used as a smartphone cover isn’t strength, but cost, noted Jeff Nestel-Patt, director of marketing for GT Advanced Technology, a maker of sapphire.”


Direct link to video here.

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Corning launches Lotus XT Glass; prime candidate for future Apple iOS devices – May 17, 2013
Apple ‘iPhone 5S’ to feature sapphire crystal capacitive touch Home button with fingerprint sensor, says source – May 14, 2013
Apple’s next iPhone screen could be made of Sapphire – May 2, 2013

21 Comments

  1. You gotta love capitalism, where competition decides which products prevail. In a government controlled economy we would have never seen Gorilla glass, let alone a competitor to it.

    1. Capitalism doesn’t always work that way. What if Corning bought up all its competition to have a monopoly over the entire industry? Luckily that is illegal in the US. Our government often ensures that competition exists in many industries.

      1. Well kind of illegal. You can as demonstrated by Amazon, sell at a loss till you kill the competition to create a monopoly, and if another company dares to make a deal to stop that, you get the government to go after them.

        1. Agree, we need stronger anti-trust laws in some industries. However, monopolies don’t always go unchecked. Kodak had a near monopoly on film years ago, which motivated them to stagnate. Eventually digital cameras came and Kodak was history. The same could be said of Microsoft after their success in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and Apple after their first wave of success in the 1970s and 1980s.

          1. Quite the contrary w/ Kodak, which certainly did not stagnate. Kodak basically invented the digital camera, and still held numerous key patents on digital imaging technology before they were recently purchased to raise cash. Aside from the phaseout of film cameras, Kodak fell flat because their target market with consumer cameras was the middle and entry level price points. Once that market collapsed with the onslaught of camera phones, Kodak did not have a higher end DSLR product to bolster their profit margins.

            AT&T was another monopoly, yet many of the most important inventions of the 20th century (e.g., transistor, motion picture sound, laser, CCD, C programming language, UNIX, etc.) came out of their labs.

    2. The creation of Gorilla Glass had very little to do with competition and virtually nothing at all to do with any government.

      In the late 90s and early 2000s Corning invested very, very heavily in the creation of glass fiber optics. When the combination of the “dot com” bubble bursting and all the post burst financially hurting telecom companies having laid lots and lots and lots of dark fiber (expecting to light it up and make billions as the dot com bubble kept expanding) and the increase in the use of plastic fiber for the short haul Corning found that they had very few customers for its glass fiber optics — its most recent cash cow.

      Corning HAD to find something as it was losing money and really financially hurting.

      Corning has always played in exotic glasses — thus Corning got into the specialty, hard glass game as an attempt to do new cover glasses for various devices. After the smartphones — with their large screens (at least in comparison to the earlier feature phones) — came prevalent, Corning finally came up with a glass that would be good enough: Gorilla Glass.

      So developing Gorilla Glass was a matter of corporate survival — not beating the competition and the U.S. Government neither helped nor hindered this process.

      1. True, Gorilla Glass wasn’t invented to beat the competition. However, Gorilla Glass 2 and Gorilla Glass 3 were developed for precisely that reason. Making better glass for mobile devices has become big business, which will of course attract lots of competition to the market. Not only does Corning make tons of money from Apple, they make tons of money from HTC, Samsung, etc. They have a very strong incentive to stay ahead of their competition.

        They will eventually face (as do most successful companies who pioneer an industry) serious competition. The pioneer company however usually has the luxury of sitting on mountains of money. In a perfectly free market, they would have a strong incentive to buy up their competition. In the 19th century before strong anti-trust laws, this is precisely what happened.

        Once a corporation attains monopoly status in certain industries, it can maintain very high prices just by constantly buying up (or dumping products near) it’s competition. Thanks to anti-trust laws, it’s much more difficult to become a monopoly today. It’s good for Apple that they have choices for their suppliers. It’s good for consumers too. And sometimes the government is responsible to make sure that competition exists.

    3. Capitalism/socialism is not necessary relevant to this. USSR had huge research and development industry and they did countless things in parallel, because it is the best way to find out which technology is better. Whether the institutions that make and invent all of this are for profit or non-profit, in this aspect made no difference. (But, of course, for common consumer socialistic system had not only advantages over capitalism, but also had major drawbacks.)

      1. Most of the greatest inventions in history came along before either economic system existed. Economics is largely not responsible for the act of invention. It’s responsible for everything that comes after that, such as finding practical (marketable) uses for that invention. However, all the profit incentive in the world doesn’t help you to invent something. Most inventions are the result of aimless experimentation and dumb luck. Look at penicillin.

  2. Test shows sapphire is more brittle than gorilla glass but avoids the fact that gorilla glass scratches much more easily. Good try Corning but be honest.

    1. Corning does admit that sapphire is harder to scratch. I have had an iPhone in my pocket since 2007 with no case and have never scratched it. Not sure how a substance that costs 10x more with a small benefit is really important.

    2. It’s not up to Corning to promote the one advantage that sapphire has, any more than it’s up to Apple to talk about times when a Winblows computer is better (just pretending that there is one for the sake of the point).

  3. Of course this comes from Corning.
    And that article is funny because according to them there is no use for sapphire since, for some reason, Gorilla Glass which is a ridiculous name by the way, is better in all aspects. There are probably companies that produce sapphire that can compile a list of reasons for the opposite. Change the name at last, Corning… Gorilla glass for your Gorilla arms? Anyone?

  4. Monopolies are not illegal in the US. ABUSIVE MONOPOLIES are illegal in the US. The Gov’t decides who can and who CANNOT have a monopoly. The US. Postal Service is a monopoly, and I would call it an Abusive one to boot, Bell Tel, was a Gov’t granted monopoly as well, not too abusive, but still a monopoly. If a company (tries) to buy up all the competition, that will only work for a short while (if at all) because if there is money to be made – competition will ALWAYS try to get in on it, and the company that tries to corner the market will go out of biz trying to buy up all of the competition. Another monopoly is the Diamond industry, DeBeers Corp in S. Africa owns almost 100% of that Market, and that is the reason Diamonds are priced the way they are, not because of scarcity, that’s not a US company, so the Gov’t can ‘t do anything about them. But in General, a Natural monoply, like APlle has with High qual computers is not really a bad thing as long they don’t abuse it.

  5. Corning makes some good points. Generally you pick a material for overall performance, not just one feature. I could see Apple (or HTC or Samsung) using a sapphire LCD cover only to get slammed because it breaks more easily when the phone is dropped. For the small lens cover on the iPhone sapphire is probably a good choice as it doesn’t need to be strong. For the large LCD cover of an iPhone or iPad Gorilla Glass might be better.

    This is probably why we don’t yet see diamond coatings on things. Diamond is, of course, very hard but I guess they haven’t figured out a way to make it durable as well.

    Gorilla Glass is already quite hard. I had to prepare a sample of it recently for analysis and it was quite difficult to do. It quickly tore up my sandpaper used for the initial polishing and grinding. Maybe Corning can find a way to treat the surface to increase the hardness a little more.

  6. I’m glad that there are a variety of strong glass brands out there. Competition pushes manufacturers to make quality products, something that Samsung and Microsoft need to understand.

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