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New Gorilla Glass Launched To Help Prevent Smartphone Smashes

Glassmaker Corning just unveiled its newest version of Gorilla Glass, the chemically strengthened super glass that dozens of consumer electronics makers use in their devices. This is good news because it has made dropping one’s smartphone when taking a selfie less risky.

Shattered or cracked screens are the number one cause of smartphone repairs and customer complaints globally. While launching its next generation of Gorilla Glass - the material used in more than 70% of smartphone screens, including on Samsung and Apple devices, Corning said that the Gorilla Glass 5 could survive more than 80% of drops from as high as 1.6 metres.

Internal research done by Corning showed that 85% of smartphone owners have dropped their phones at least once in the past year, and that two-thirds of those drops happening from waist height to shoulder height. So while previous versions of the Glass may have been strong, it wasn't necessarily as durable if you dropped your phone while pulling it from your pocket or while taking a photo. And rough surfaces are particularly brutal for delicate smartphones, so much of Corning's research and development of the new glass involved drops on rough surfaces.

Gorilla Glass 5 was formulated to improve drop performance from gadgets that are dropped onto rough surfaces from certain heights — specifically, waist height to shoulder height. Selfie-fumblers rejoice. The new glass was tested on rough surfaces - a demo for journalists showed dummy phones being dropped from a height of 1.6 meters onto a sheet of sandpaper. Some of the phones tested survived over 20 hard drops in the lab. Typically, most phone drops are from between waist and shoulder height.

It is the successor to Corning Gorilla Glass 4, which was introduced in the fall of 2014. Gorilla Glass 4 was said to be twice as tough as the previous version of its glass and twice as likely to survive drops onto uneven surfaces — but only from about a meter high.

Most of the new glass demos seen today at Corning's Silicon Valley offices were face drops, meaning the dummy phone was dropped flat on its face, rather than onto its corner or edge.

"What will define the performance of the overall device on those types of corner drops is stiffness of the phone design, but also how the glass is packaged," Bayne said. Much of this is dependent on what's known as the "proudness" of the glass, which refers to how high above the phone the glass sits. "If it sits up really high, we call that a proud design. If it's protected by the bezel of the design then, it's - not proud. So if you have a device that has a proud design, that one wouldn't perform as well as one that had a different design."

"And as we go to 3D designs, the edge is more exposed ... and you have to be sensitive to that," he added.

As well as drops, the company said it was twice at good at resisting scratches and other damage compared to what's currently on the market.

Device manufacturers are expected to unveil products with the new glass within the next few months. Gorilla Glass 5 is commercially available and is expected to be on product models from leading global brands later this year.

This is the same time when the Galaxy Note 7 and the iPhone 7 are expected to hit the shelves, and the addition of the new, even tougher Corning glass at the front would be a godsend for many, given how expensive it would be to replace a curved 5.7" AMOLED display, like the one rumored to be on the Note 7. 

Quickly enough, a Korean publication claims that those two flagships are indeed likely to be outfitted with Gorilla Glass 5.

When Corning announced Gorilla Glass 4, and said it is designed to withstand face-down phone drops from about three feet on concrete or other hard surfaces, immediately afterwards it posted that the Samsung Galaxy Alpha will be the first phone to feature it. This year, there are no such announcement yet, but let's not forget that Samsung has been investing in Corning for a while now, so it might not be by accident that Gorilla Glass 5 is announced two weeks before the Note 7 unveiling. 

Fingers crossed, the S7 edge screen replacement is nearly $300, so one can only imagine how much the Note 7 panel would cost to swap - anything to help face-down drops would be highly appreciated.

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