In both a literal and metaphorical sense, the title is true. Some of your smartphones might be protected by Gorilla Glass, but the fact remains that they are still capable of physically breaking. Sure, it won’t break from a small drop, but as the saying goes, all the little things add up—you might notice a hairline crack one day which could expand to a lot more if you’re one of those people that keep dropping your smartphone. But researchers are looking to replace Gorilla Glass with sapphire glass so that cracked screens will be a thing of the past.
For those of you who paid attention in science class, sapphire is the second hardest material in the world after diamond. Sapphire is a transparent, crystalline form of aluminum oxide (alumina) that is extraordinarily hard and scratch-resistant. It has a melting point of 2,030 degrees Celsius, and it is almost completely impermeable and impervious to caustic chemicals. In short, sapphire is slightly weaker but far cheaper and more abundant than diamond, so you won’t have to empty your wallet (and then some) to acquire a device with sapphire glass. In terms of real-world use, sapphire is about 10 times more scratch resistant than normal window glass, and much stronger than any other materials used in optics applications.
Synthetic sapphire is already being created by multiple companies around the world. Although these companies have their own methods of creating the material, it has triple the strength of Corning’s Gorilla Glass. We had already mentioned a smartphone that uses sapphire glass—the extremely expensive Vertu TI—but the development of sapphire glass-protected devices might ensure that this extremely strong protection will not just be for those who have money. It could go mainstream as the costs of production of this sort of glass goes down. Some market analysts have noted that the current cost of manufacturing a sheet of Gorilla Glass is only USD$3 (PHP 120), but the cost of manufacturing a sheet of sapphire glass is USD$30 (PHP 1,200), so that might mean that the cost of smartphones with sapphire glass might initially be high, but will go down as soon as it can be cheaply mass produced.
Corning will probably be forced to make Gorilla Glass a lot stronger, and they will have some serious competition as the quest to make the smartphone more durable goes forth. It’s worth to note that one of the devices that already has sapphire glass is Apple’s iPhone 5—it’s used to protect the rear camera lens.