Mobility

Gorilla Glass 5 will protect phones and tablets from 80% of drops

Corning recently announced the latest version of its Gorilla Glass for mobile devices, which promises to protect even better from shoulder height drops. It targets selfie takers and texting on the go.

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Image: Corning

Shattered glass on a smartphone is a universal problem for both consumers and the enterprise, but Corning's newest Gorilla Glass, due out on products next month, could help alleviate the problem.

The new glass, known simply as Gorilla Glass 5, was announced Wednesday. It is even tougher than previous incarnations. The new glass can survive a 1.6-meter fall—approximately shoulder height—about 80% of the time.

"We believe it's a step change in damage resisting glass technology and it gives a significant improvement in drop results vs. current glasses in the market. We believe our customers will see up to a 2x improvement over Gorilla Glass 4, and as much as 4x improvement over any of our competitors glasses," said Jim Steiner, senior vice president and general manager of specialty products for Corning.

"That then will translate to a 1.8x improvement in drop performance on rough surfaces. We've found through

failure analysis that we believe about 80% of glass breakage happens when you drop your phone on a rough surface like asphalt or concrete, so we specifically engineered this glass to withstand those type of failure events," Steiner said.

To test the glass, Corning mounts the glass on what the company calls a "puck" and it drops it at 20 centimeters, progressing an additional 10 centimeters at a time until they reach 220 centimeters. As many as 70% of the devices with Gorilla Glass 5 survived a fall from the top of the test, at 220 centimeters, or 5 feet, Steiner said.

Where to see Gorilla Glass 5

Individual manufacturers that use Gorilla Glass on their products, such as Apple, don't allow Corning to release news about their proprietary products. But, Steiner said new products are definitely on the way.

"We are in production and are shipping to customers already. You will see some launches in quarter three, and you will see some within a month," Steiner said.

The glass was created because the hand-held device manufacturers who use the product insisted on stronger glass, since so many users were breaking their smartphone's glass when they dropped it onto asphalt or concrete while texting on the go or taking selfies. Currently, Gorilla Glass has been used on more than 4.5 billion devices worldwide, including more than 1,800 product models across 40 major brands.

SEE: The ridiculous profit made from replacing cracked smartphone screens (TechRepublic)

So now, selfie takers and Pokémon Go players will have better luck if they drop their smartphone with Gorilla Glass 5 while chasing that elusive Articuno Pokémon.

"All of our customers want better performance in the glass so we worked closely with them both on our glass design and how it impacts their design on drop tests. After we do our own glass tests, we work closely with our customers to correlate our results with their design. They do their own drop tests with our glass. Like with consumers, the number one improvement they'd like in the glass is that it has better drop results, and our OEM customers feel the same way. It's their number one result also," Steiner said.

Saving lost productivity

The new glass should result in savings for consumers and businesses, with fewer instances of glass breakage on smartphones.

"We would expect to see a fairly significant impact on failures, which then would impact the number of broken phones that have to be returned. But how to translate that into productivity, I really hadn't thought about it. But obviously, there is a significant cost. The warranty cost of broken phones is quite high so there is an economic impact," Steiner said.

Anthony Martin, co-founder of iCracked, which has mobile iTech teams around the U.S. for phone repair for businesses and consumers, said that the cost of getting phones repaired, and the loss of productivity, has an impact on businesses. Even just taking a phone to a repair shop and waiting 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 hours for repair, not to mention the $169.99 cost of replacing the glass on an iPhone 6s Plus, is "a huge pain point for businesses," he said.

Corning conducted a survey to find out how often glass is broken in smartphones, and which use cases result in the most breakage. They found that more than 85% of smartphone owners drop their phones at least once a year and 55% drop their phones three times a year or more. And, more than 60% of smartphone owners say they drop their devices from a distance between shoulder and waist height.

Moving into the auto industry

Another market for Gorilla Glass is the auto industry. BMW began using the glass on the BMW i8 model last year, and Ford began using it on the Ford GT six months ago. Both models are very high-end, but they will highlight the glass technology before it can be produced at volume for mass market, Steiner said.

"We are working with auto companies to design a laminated version of Gorilla Glass. The advantage with automobiles is it can reduce the weight of the window to help it meet fuel economy standards. It's 30% lighter and it gives 2-3 times better performance against stone impact, which is the typical failure mode in the windshield," Steiner said.

The new Gorilla Glass was initially manufactured at Corning's Harrodsburg, KY plant, which was where the glass was first made in 2007, and it will continue to be produced there at a volume production level, Steiner said.

Three takeaways for TechRepublic readers:

  1. Corning is now producing Gorilla Glass 5, which will result in up to two times better breakage resistance than the previous version.
  2. Gorilla Glass is making inroads into the auto industry, appearing first on the BMW i8 and the Ford GT.
  3. The first products with the new Gorilla Glass will arrive on the market next month.

See also

About Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including Peo...

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