Why Glass Displays Beat Sapphire
As we approach the launch of the newest iPhone, I decided to look into why glass displays are so popular.
As you may recall, the tech industry wasbuzzing about Apple potentially using sapphire screens in last fall’s iPhones. But while Apple was heading in that direction, the fiasco with its sapphire supplier pretty much killed the idea. It seems Apple has now settled on using glass as its screen material of choice, but so has Samsung and most other high-end smartphone makers.
There is good reason to do so. Glass—specifically advanced glass—remains the leading material in our display-driven world. Its advantage lies in its unique ability to meet numerous needs, from the display inside the device to the cover or touch surface.
As I researched this subject, I found that over the last year, some of the key anticipated innovations in glass have started to take shape. And it appears that Corning is leading this charge. Here’s why glass has become the main displays used in our most of our tech devices:
- In November 2014, Corning introduced Corning Gorilla Glass 4. It was formulated to address consumers’ No. 1 concern: screen breakage. Gorilla Glass 4 performs up to two times better than competitive glass designs and is being adopted by OEMs at a rapid pace. It’s just as thin and light as previous versions, but has been formulated to deliver dramatically improved drop performance. Also in the works is something called Phire, which most likely will deliver even greater scratch resistance as well as even stronger displays.
- The adoption of shaped glass (3D or 2.5D) continues to expand in 2015. Corning expects it to continue as conformable displays enable new functionality. Shaped glass brings new challenges for device reliability, and customers have chosen Gorilla Glass to meet those tough new requirements, including the Galaxy S6 Edge, which launched with Gorilla Glass 4. This is a big deal as we anticipate more unique designs in mobile devices that go beyond them having just flat surfaces.
- Flexibility and adaptability are key to the future of mobile devices. We are already seeing the shrinking of devices onto the wrist with theApple Watch and other smartwatches. This is only the beginning of a new wave of wearables. The materials that cover these devices need to adapt to 3D shapes and curves. In some cases there may be a requirement for the material to “flex” and perhaps one day even fold. Industrially manufactured sapphire doesn’t bend, unlike a thin sheet of Gorilla Glass. In talking with some of the big players of mobile devices, I was a bit surprised about how much they want to “bend” a device’s screen.
- Chinese smartphone manufacturer ZTE announced that its latest flagship smartphone, the ZTE Axon, will be the first to use Antimicrobial Corning Gorilla Glass. It is formulated to combine the durability and scratch resistance attributes of Corning Gorilla Glass with a built-in antimicrobial agent to deliver a tough cover glass that fights the growth of stain- and odor-causing bacteria over the lifetime of the device. The antimicrobial property is intrinsic to the glass so it is able to maintain the mechanical toughness and optical clarity of Corning Gorilla Glass. This is especially important for equipment used in hospitals and other health-related settings.
- Consumers want extraordinary picture clarity and brightness from their screens, as well as longer battery life. But screen brightness is a major drain on battery life. From talking to some big OEMs, they tell me that Gorilla Glass provides the clearest display in the market today; it limits reflectivity and allows much more light to get through the screen to enhance its brightness. The clearer a device, the longer its battery life, as the device works less to provide superior brightness.
- Screens must be adaptable and intelligent. The next generation of displays will require surfaces to do new and different things, like being able to resist glare, dirt, or germs. So the material has to be malleable enough that scientists can actually engineer new attributes and characteristics into the surface.
A year after all of the hoopla about sapphire screens, it does seem that glass is on track to be the dominant screen that works best for vendors and consumers. More importantly, the makers of glass screens like Corning continue to innovate in order to provide the best possible experiences on our mobile devices.