Gorilla Glass-maker Corning again slams sapphire; subtext aimed at Apple

“A Corning executive launched a blistering critique of sapphire crystal, used as a protective material for displays, on Tuesday,” Brooke Crothers reports for CNET. “The subtext was obviously aimed at Apple.”

“In defense of its Gorilla Glass, Tony Tripeny, a senior vice president at Corning Glass, was asked the following question at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, via Seeking Alpha, on Tuesday,” Crothers reports. “The question came from analyst James Fawcett of Morgan Stanley… ‘So we mentioned Sapphire and obviously there is one large handset and device maker that people suspect maybe looking at Sapphire. And at least from a Corning perspective, [what are] the puts and takes of Sapphire versus glass?'”

Crothers reports, “Tripney’s response: ‘When we look at it, we see a lot of disadvantages of Sapphire versus Gorilla Glass. It’s about 10 times more expensive. It’s about 1.6 times heavier. It’s environmentally unfriendly. It takes about 100 times more energy to generate a Sapphire crystal than it does glass. It transmits less light which…means either dimmer devices or shorter battery life. It continues to break. I think while it’s a scratch resistant product it still breaks and our testing says that Gorilla Glass [can take] about 2.5 times more pressure that it can take…Sapphire on. So when we look at it, we think from an overall industry and trend that is not attractive in consumer electronics.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The fear is palpable.

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      1. Let us also not forget that in 2005 Gorilla Glass was a solution looking for a problem and Corning had abandoned making it. Then Steve Jobs heard about it and told Corning that he wanted to buy as much Gorilla Glass as they were able to make in six months. Corning’s response was that it couldn’t be done as they didn’t have the capacity.

        Steve Jobs leaned on them in his inimitable manner and they found that they were able to make it after all.


    1. By the way, the Gorilla guy said that sapphire is “about 1.6 times heavier”. What he did not say is that sapphire is 5 times harder. Besides, you can chop off super thin layer of the crystal and put it over display matrix glass, as Apple patent describes. In this case Apple will have thinner and harder cover than with usual Gorilla glass solution.

      1. Agreed. Density is not the same thing as weight, if the denser material is thinner (less volume). Of course, the Corning guy knows that, but he wanted to make it sound like iPhones would gain a lot of weight and feel like bricks.

        In addition, “pressure” is an ambiguous term. Impact loads are different from distributed pressure loads. And scratches (which GG will have and sapphire will not) lead to stress concentrations and crack propagation. Virgin GG may have a mechanical advantage over sapphire, but that advantage may shrink a lot for a used GG display.

        The Corning guy is right about the energy issue. But Apple will likely acquire most or all of that electrical power from renewable resources.

        The Corning guy is absolutely wrong about the relative cost of single crystal sapphire…for Apple. A smartphone sapphire substrate may cost $30 for everyone else compared to $3 or so for GG. But the economy of scale provided by Apple’s new Arizona plant will greatly reduce the cost of sapphire display substrates. I have seen estimates of $5 to $10 per display, or two to three times the cost of GG. Seeing as how many people already shell out $10 or $20 bucks for a case or screen protector, that cost difference on a $600 device is negligible.

        1. I am not sure where the Corning guy is getting his figures but they certainly are not coming from physics. Sapphire has a Young’s Modulus of around 330-400 GigaPascals while Corning Gorilla Glass 3 is less than 70 GigaPascals. . . that’s the rating for impact resistance. While the MOHs hardness scale places Gorilla Glass 3 at around 6.5 and Sapphire at 9, those are NOT a linear scale. The Vickers absolute hardness scale places Sapphire at around 2300 and 622-701. . . but I’ve seen idiotic news articles claiming that Gorilla Glass Vickers hardness was the SAME? WTF??? No WAY! What are they smoking! It’s less than a third as hard! This is all Propaganda!

  1. Wow, I hope Apple considered how sapphire glass is worse in every possible way before deciding upon using it.

    Seriously, though, the guy is so obviously fabricating what he’s saying. He might as well say “Apple is the dumbest company on the planet” and see how far that gets him.

    1. “Worse in every possible way” .. you stupid enough to take the words of a direct competitor without even doing any research or getting any independent information? Are you really that stupid, or are you just a troll?

  2. As far as I’ve read casually, no one from Apple said that the iPhone’s glass screen would be ONLY Sapphire.

    It could easily be a laminated with even better overall resistance to breakage due to a very tough underlayer of glass with a higher modulus of elasticity.

    1. As described in the September 12, 2013 PatentlyApple article entitled “Apple Invents a Fusion Process that Will Add a Sapphire Laminate Layer to iPhone, iPad & Future iWatch Cover Glass”

  3. Tell that to Rolex and other high end watches. Put a gorilla on cheap plastic Civics or put sapphire on the BMW and Mercedes. Apple is the high end market and let’s Samsung play in the low end sandbox.

  4. Jonny Ive is well known to be obsessed with expensive watches. My guess is that this is one of his long-term fantasy projects.
    Also, apple has a patent on a particle accelerator beam that can slice sapphire with molecular precision – better than a frikken laser!

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