Ever since Steve Jobs trotted out on stage and declared the wondrous benefits of simian-themed amorphous solids, pretty much every smartphone worth buying has used one iteration or another of Corning’s Gorilla Glass. Kyocera does offer a handful of smartphones with sapphire displays, but potassium-processed Simian Silicon remains the go-to solution for every manufacturer.
Corning has announced Gorilla Glass Victus, a new type of Gorilla Glass the company claims has improved shatter and scratch resistance, after several years of little-to-no improvement in the latter category. In the past, there’s always been a trade-off between these two traits. In fact, Corning’s previous explanation for why it had held scratch resistance steady while focusing on drop resistance was that of the two, people wanted more shatter resistance. Altogether, Victus is supposed to have twice the scratch resistance of Gorilla Glass 6 and 4x the resistance of competing aluminosilicate.
Shatter resistance has also been improved. With GG 6, Corning claimed devices could survive up to a 5.25-foot drop (1.6m). With Gorilla Glass Victus, devices can theoretically survive up to a 6.5-foot (two-meter) drop. While scratch resistance and shatter resistance have typically been two opposite points on the metaphorical iron triangle of smartphone displays (thickness is likely the third), that doesn’t mean one doesn’t impact the other. Because smartphone displays are so thin, it’s easier for scratches to weaken the glass. Making it harder to scratch the device could therefore indirectly improve its chances of surviving a fall.
There are some caveats to these numbers, though the caveats are not Corning’s fault. One point Corning brought up to The Verge is that manufacturers have often reacted to the company’s glass improvements by making their devices thinner. This made sense when smartphones could fairly be called chunky. But devices have now become so thin, companies are winning accolades for making them slightly thicker.
We’re hoping this recent trend towards sanity is strong enough that companies like Apple and Samsung won’t promptly slice away the improvements Corning makes by making their devices thinner again. If I have to put a screen protector over the gorgeous panel to protect it, I’m no longer seeing the actual panel and the “advantage” of your thinner glass is wasted. It’d be infinitely better to just build a thick-enough display in the first place. According to Corning, Victus survives 20 1-meter drops on average, while Gorilla Glass 6 survived an average of 15 drops at that height.
Unfortunately, according to Corning, manufacturers are already moving to make their glass thinner rather than capitalizing on durability, which means the actual benefits of Victus may be small to nonexistent, depending on the manufacturer. The new screens are expected to start shipping in a few months, with Samsung likely leading the charge.
I’d genuinely love to see new phones with more robust displays. But from the sound of it, manufacturers are more interested in selling repair kits than durable products. If I sound dubious of genuine improvement, it’s because I am. Not because Corning build bad products, but because the companies it sells to refuse to use those products in a manner that would actually improve the end-user experience.
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