As the story goes, just six weeks before the launch of the original iPhone, CEO Steve Jobs got annoyed about scratching the plastic screen of the model device he was using, so the last-minute change resulted in Apple switching to glass.
And not just any glass, but Gorilla Glass. This chemically enhanced glass was created by Corning and has since become a staple in the smartphone market. Let’s take a look at the history first before reaching the age of smartphones.
The Corning Company got its start in the mid-1800s and made lenses for railroad signal lights and later automobile headlights. I made the glass for Thomas Edison’s lamp. In 1915, she invented Pyrex cookware. Then in the 1960s, I started making windows for NASA spacecraft, including the Space Shuttle. Fast forward to 2006 and we come to the fateful meeting between Apple and Corning.
Plastic screens were the norm in that era, but Apple cares a lot about aesthetics to allow the device to get scratched. More than that, the iPhone was a touch phone, the screen was everything and it should be protected.
This was true for other smartphones as well as they move from keyboards and keyboards to touch screens. Early iPhones used Gorilla Glass as well as the T-Mobile G1, the first ever Android phone.
Apple iPhone • Apple iPhone 3G • T-Mobile G1
Touchscreen phones that run in almost every operating system on Earth have also adopted Corning Glass. From the small Samsung Corby to the i8910 Omnia HD powerhouse. From the elegant LG KM900 Arena to the unique LG BL40 New Chocolate.
It was also on the Nokia X6 (now that the Finns are 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 these are just some of the phones from 2009.
Samsung S3650 Corby • Samsung i8910 Omnia HD • LG KM900 Arena • LG BL40 Chocolate New
Nokia X6 (2009) • Motorola MILESTONE • Sonim XP3.20 Quest • LG GD910
By 2010, about 20% of mobile phones came with Gorilla Glass, and about 200 million devices. In 2012, a sequel was announced – it could be Gorilla Glass 2 . sheets 20% thinner While staying at the same strength.
The GG2 was used by the likes of the Galaxy S III and the camera turned Galaxy Camera GC100. Samsung also used it on its Windows Phone, the Ativ S, as did HTC on its innovative Windows Phone 8X.
Samsung Galaxy S III • Galaxy GC100 Camera • Samsung Ativ S I8750 • HTC Windows Phone 8X
So far, Nokia has become a fan of glass and featured the Lumia 920. Other influential phones using the GG2 were the Oppo Find 5 and the LG Optimus G. The glass was suitable for 3D displays as seen in 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, and it’s a completely new combination. It was more resistant to dents and the scratches it received were less visible thanks to what Corning called “Native Damage Resistance.”
To prove it at MWC, Corning dropped a 135g steel ball onto a regular piece of glass and a GG3. Ordinary glass cracked, so it was replaced by an aluminum plate. Dropping the ball again dented the aluminum, but Gorilla Glass 3 escaped unharmed.
I used the complement of some familiar faces GG3. For example, Samsung Galaxy S4, Note3, and S4 zoom in. The affordable Moto G, its premium sibling Moto X (both made by Google-owned Motorola) and the LG Nexus 5.
Samsung I9500 Galaxy S4 • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 • Zoom in 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-inch screen (remember this was in 16:9 days, this thing was 85.9mm wide and 164.2mm tall).
Nokia Lumia 1020 • Nokia Lumia 1320
Gorilla Glass 3 was one of Corning’s most successful combinations and is still used to this day, here are some recent devices. Pixel 6a uses it to display. The Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro uses it for the back. Interestingly enough, the Motorola Edge 30 Pro uses GG3 for the front and GG5 for the back. It is still used by the rugged Sonim and 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 brand name “Gorilla Glass” and started calling it “Ionic-reinforced glass” instead. However, it was still a Corning product.
Cupertino actually tried to get away from the glass on this point. She was working with GT Advanced, a company that made sapphire crystal displays for the Apple Watch. These were also used to protect the camera and Touch ID fingerprint readers. But Apple wanted bigger papers, ones that could cover the iPhone’s screen. Unfortunately, the GT Advanced went bankrupt while trying to develop the technology to make it possible. Sapphire Crystal has been used on some phones, but none have been used at iPhone sales volume. It is mostly a monitor thing.
That’s a good part in Gorilla Glass SR+, a glass from 2016 designed specifically for wearables. It offers better wear resistance and lower screen reflections compared to “alternative premium cover materials”.
Then in 2018, Gorilla Glass DX and DX+ came along, which is glass optimized for wearables. According to Corning, it reduced reflections by 75%, which improved screen contrast by 50%. This was vital to smartwatches, which only had small batteries to power their screens. The difference between the DX and the DX+ was that the add-on 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+ allow 98% of the light to pass through while reducing reflections (which can cause flare in photos).
The latest versions from Corning are Gorilla Glass Victus and Victus+ (discontinued with the number versions after 6). Based on official tests, the smartphone with Victus glass on the front can withstand a two-meter (6.5-foot) drop on concrete and still have a working screen. It also has superior scratch resistance compared to previous generations.
Victus and Victus+ are now standard for flagships – 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.
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 displays like TVs as well (although this is not marketed as “Gorilla Glass”).
Corning’s next challenge is foldable phones – some use “Ultra Thin Glass” (UTG), which measures one-third the thickness of a human hair. It’s so thin that it can bend, not something you normally see glass. But making it durable enough for hundreds of daily cycles of folding and unfolding is no easy feat. However, it is still important to solve the problem as some view foldable devices as the future of smartphones.
By 2020, Corning’s Gorilla Glass has appeared on 8 billion devices built by more than 45 OEMs. It was a huge hit, considering that the original GG was hastily assembled, and developed in just 4 months. It has gone through many iterations and improvements and why it was needed in the first place hasn’t gone away.