Flashback: 15 years of Gorilla Glass on phones
According to the story, just six weeks before the original iPhone was released, CEO Steve Jobs got upset that the plastic screen of the prototype device he was using had been scratched. A last minute change therefore saw Apple switch to glass.
And not just any glass, but Gorilla Glass. This chemically strengthened glass was created by Corning and has since become a staple in the smartphone market. Let’s first look at a bit of history before we get to the era of smartphones.
Corning got its start in the mid-19th century, manufacturing lenses for railroad signal lights and later car headlights. He made the glass for Thomas Edison’s light bulb. In 1915, she created Pyrex kitchen utensils. Then, in the 1960s, he began making windows for NASA spacecraft, including the Space Shuttle. Fast forward to 2006 and we come to the fateful meeting between Apple and Corning.
Corning has made some of the most important pieces of glass in history
Plastic screens were the norm back then, but Apple cares too much about aesthetics to let a device get scratched. More than that, the iPhone was a touchscreen phone, the screen was everything and it had to be protected.
This was also true for other smartphones as they transitioned from keyboards and keypads to touchscreens. The first iPhones used Gorilla Glass, as did the T-Mobile G1, the very first Android phone.
Apple iPhone • Apple iPhone 3G • T-Mobile G1
Touch phones running just about every operating system on earth have also adopted Corning’s glass. From the small Samsung Corby to the mighty i8910 Omnia HD. From the elegant LG KM900 Arena to the unique LG BL40 New Chocolate.
It was also on the Nokia X6 (now that the Finns were moving away from resistive touch), as well as the Motorola Droid/Milestsone, the rugged Sonim XP3.20 Quest and even the LG GD910 watch phone (we’ll talk about wearables later ). And those are just a few of the phones from 2009.
Samsung S3650 Corby • Samsung i8910 Omnia HD • LG KM900 Arena • LG BL40 New Chocolate
Nokia X6 (2009) • Motorola MILESTONE • Sonim XP3.20 Quest • LG GD910
In 2010, about 20% of cell phones were equipped with Gorilla Glass, or some 200 million devices. In 2012, the sequel was announced – sheets of Gorilla Glass 2 could be 20% thinner while remaining just as sturdy.
GG2 was used by the likes of the Galaxy S III and the camera-turned-Galaxy Camera GC100 phone. Samsung has also used it on its Windows Phone handset, the Ativ S, as has HTC on the creatively named Windows Phone 8X.
Samsung Galaxy S III • Galaxy GC100 camera • Samsung Ativ S I8750 • HTC Windows Phone 8X
By now Nokia had become a fan of glass and it featured on the Lumia 920. Other influential phones to use GG2 include the Oppo Find 5 and LG Optimus G. Glass was even suitable for 3D screens as seen. sees on the Optimus 3D Max. .
Nokia Lumia 920 • Oppo Find 5 • LG Optimus G E975 • LG Optimus 3D Max P720
Gorilla Glass 3 arrived in 2013, a completely new formulation. It was more scratch resistant and the scratches it received were less noticeable thanks to something Corning called “Native Damage Resistance”.
To demonstrate this at MWC, Corning dropped a 135g steel ball onto a piece of normal and GG3 glass. The normal glass cracked, so it was replaced with aluminum foil. Dropping the ball again left a dent in the aluminum, but Gorilla Glass 3 survived unscathed.
Sequels for some familiar faces used GG3. Samsung’s Galaxy S4, Note3 and S4 zoom, for example. The affordable Moto G, its high-end sibling Moto X (both made by Google-owned Motorola) and the LG Nexus 5.
Samsung I9500 Galaxy S4 • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 • Zoom Samsung Galaxy S4
Motorola Moto G • Motorola Moto X • LG Nexus 5
There was also the Nokia Lumia 1020 and the big Lumia 1320 with its 6″ screen (remember it was 16:9 back then, this thing was 85.9mm wide and 164.2mm tall high).
Nokia Lumia 1020 • Nokia Lumia 1320
Gorilla Glass 3 was one of the most successful formulations for Corning and it is still used to this day, here are some modern devices. The Pixel 6a uses it for its display. The Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro uses it for its back. Interestingly, the Motorola Edge 30 Pro uses GG3 for the front and GG5 for the rear. It is still used by a rugged Sonim phone and the Ulefone Power Armor 14 Pro.
Google Pixel 6a • Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro • Motorola Edge 30 Pro • Ulefone Power Armor 14 Pro
We haven’t mentioned Apple in a while, what happened? With the iPhone 5 in 2012, the company stopped using the “Gorilla Glass” brand name and started calling it “ion-strengthened glass.” It was still a Corning product.
Cupertino actually tried to get away from the glass around this point. He was working with GT Advanced, a company that made sapphire crystal displays for the Apple Watch. These were also used to protect the Touch ID camera and fingerprint readers. But Apple wanted bigger sheets, which could cover the screen of iPhones. Unfortunately, the GT Advanced went bankrupt trying to develop the technology to make it possible. Sapphire crystal has been used on some phones, but none have the sales volume of iPhones. It’s mostly a watch thing.
It’s a nice transition to Gorilla Glass SR+, a 2016 glass designed specifically for wearables. It offered better damage resistance and reduced screen glare compared to “alternative luxury cover materials”.
Corning formulated Gorilla Glass SR+ and DX/DX+ for wearable devices
Then in 2018 came Gorilla Glass DX and DX+, improved glasses for wearables. According to Corning, it reduced glare by 75%, which improved screen contrast by 50%. This was vital for smartwatches, which only had tiny batteries to power their screens. The difference between the DX and the DX+ was that the plus model was harder.
A few years later, Corning reintroduced Gorilla Glass DX and DX+ as protection for camera lenses. Scratch resistance and improved optical performance are just as important for cameras as they are for watches. DX and DX+ let in 98% of light while reducing glare (which can cause reflections in photos).
Corning’s latest formulations are Gorilla Glass Victus and Victus+ (it stopped with the numbered versions after 6). Based on official tests, a smartphone with Victus glass on the front can survive a 2m (6.5ft) drop onto concrete and still have a functional screen. It also boasted of superior scratch resistance compared to previous generations.
Victus and Victus+ are now the norm for flagships – the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, Asus Zenfone 9, Google Pixel 6 Pro, Xiaomi 12S Ultra, Sony Xperia 1 IV, Galaxy Xcover 6 Pro, OnePlus 10 Pro, Oppo Find X5 Pro and many others others.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra 5G • Asus Zenfone 9 • Google Pixel 6 Pro • Xiaomi 12S Ultra
Sony Xperia 1 IV • Samsung Galaxy Xcover6 Pro • OnePlus 10 Pro • Oppo Find X5 Pro
Corning also made Gorilla Glass for tablets and even laptops. The company has a long history of making glass for larger screens like TVs (though it’s not marketed as “Gorilla Glass”).
Corning’s next challenge is foldable phones – some use “ultra-thin glass” (UTG), which is one-third the thickness of a human hair. It’s so thin it can bend, unlike what glass normally does. But making it durable enough for hundreds of daily folding and unfolding cycles is no small feat. Still, it’s an important issue to address as foldables are seen by some as the future of smartphones.
A collapsible sheet of glass developed by Corning
In 2020, Corning’s Gorilla Glass was featured on 8 billion devices created by more than 45 OEMs. It was a smash hit, considering the original GG was hastily assembled, developed in just 4 months. It has gone through many iterations and improvements and the reason it was needed in the first place has not gone away.
An Abridged History of Gorilla Glass