Sapphire-like Corning glass could come to next iPhone

Corning today unveiled a new material that combines the strength of Gorilla Glass with the scratch-resistance of sapphire, reports CNET. Announced by Corning’s James Clappin during an investor meeting in New York, the glass-like composite is being developed under the codename Project Phire.
The company claims it offers the scratch resistance of sapphire but does better when dropped.

“We told you last year that sapphire was great for scratch performance but didn’t fare well when dropped,” James Clappin, president of Corning Glass Technologies, said on Friday. “So, we created a product that offers the same superior damage resistance and drop performance of Gorilla Glass 4 with scratch resistance that approaches sapphire.”

Corning has become the dominant glass maker for mobile devices, now found on over 3 billion electronics shipped worldwide. Gorilla Glass 4 is found on the Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, along with the Samsung Galaxy series.

This new sapphire display was expected to debut in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but those plans never materialized due to production and quality control issues. The inability of GT Advanced to provide Apple with a suitable display material led to the the chapter 11 bankruptcy of the materials supplier and the severance of the partnership between the two companies.

Past smartphones, the Corning “Project Phire” will be made for wearables. Apple has previously alluded that it will use sapphire glass in the Apple Watch that ships in April.

It was rumored in 2014 that Apple was planning to switch from Gorilla Glass to sapphire-based screens through GT Advanced Technologies, however the endeavor failed after the partner company went bankrupt. With a time crunch to get the next iPhone in production coming up later this year, Apple may choose “Project Phire” for its next smartphone glass.

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