If you want to know why Corning created Gorilla Glass Victus 2, the new cover glass the company unveiled today, you can thank (or blame) your big, chunky phone.
When Corning started making unbreakable glass 15 years ago and started testing it on mobile devices, the benchmark was 160g, which was more than the original iPhone, which weighed 135g. Compare this to the iPhone 14 Pro, which weighs a whopping 206 grams, iPhone 14 Pro Max, which weighs a whopping 240 grams, or the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, which weighs a whopping 228 grams.
Corning VP and General Manager for Gorilla Glass David R. Velasquez told me this week that modern smartphones are now packed with more technology (better cameras, more sensors, bigger batteries) and are heavier and more compact than the phones Corning originally tested.
Now the benchmark is 200g. That’s still part of the weight of the latest phones, but weight isn’t the only part of Corning’s testing methodology that’s changed and, more importantly, this Gorilla Glass isn’t the same either.
Victus 2 is a new formulation of Gorilla Glass. When asked for details, Velasquez confirmed it’s different from the original Victus, which was introduced two years ago, but added, “It’s better. That’s as much detail as I can give.”
The result is a thinner glass that is equally resistant to scratches, but offers better breakage performance.
However, Corning has changed its testing method. After years of dropping thousands of phones from 1M and 2M height onto simulated asphalt surfaces (sandpaper that shows the roughness of the surface with metal underneath), Corning added in simulated concrete. I think they finally realized that we drop as many phones on the sidewalk as we do on the street.
With “concrete,” Corning Gorilla Glass tests Victus 2 at 1M and still uses “asphalt” for 2M testing. The difference is not so much the hardness as the irregularity of the surfaces. To demonstrate, Corning sent me a sheet embedded with two coarseness sandpaper squares designed to simulate both surfaces. The “concrete” feels noticeably rougher.
It’s not just bigger phones that make Corning’s job more difficult. Velasquez reminded me that there was a time when protecting glass screens was relatively easier.
“In the old days, before there were molded glass parts, most of the design work was on the framing of the phones. The iPhone 4 was the first time glass was raised, a huge change and much more likely to break,” he said.
Today, phones like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, Google Pixel 7 Pro, and the iPhone 14 Pro appear to be made almost entirely of glass. I think Corning knows how to make a phone that might never break, but the partnership between the glass coating company and the phone manufacturer doesn’t quite work that way.
“OEMs often come to us [and say], ‘This is what we’re launching in 3.5 years. Can you do this in glass, if so what are the design considerations?” explains Velasquez.
What follows are conversations and even some modifications of molecules and how they are designed to strengthen the glass.
Velasquez was quick to add that phone makers don’t get custom glass products. However, understanding the direction phone manufacturers are heading in could affect the types of glass (maybe even Victus 2) Corning produces now and in the future.
While Gorilla Glass Victus 2 is stronger than Victus 1, Corning has no control over how phone manufacturers use it.
“Most phone companies take this much better glass and make it thinner. Phones can never be thin enough, or they have a more aggressive design,” says Velasquez.
Can you fold it?
Speaking of aggressive designs, I had to ask about bendable glass. Corning doesn’t have a bendable product right now, but the future will be a different story.
Velasquez confirmed that Corning is “in deep discussions with all major customers about where they are going. Some are further than others.”
The company expects to be launched in the coming years, but could not share much about its plans. Still, Velasquez says Corning is very excited about bendable glass.
“What’s great about working with customers to enable bendable designs is that it’s very, very difficult to get glass to bend and touch itself. It’s one of the most difficult problems imaginable. Corning tends to excel where the problem is really hard. Our scientist is happy to sink his teeth into that.”
But for now, Corning and its partners are rubbing their teeth against the nearly unbreakable and equally hard-to-scratch Gorilla Glass Victus 2. OEMs have the glass samples and some “design-ins” are already underway. Valesquez expects “announcements from some of our partners in the next three months”
In the meantime, we are waiting for truly unbreakable smartphone glass. Corning is working on it, but Velasquez told me, “I’m not there yet, but I’m going to continue that fight.”
If you’re looking for phones with the current version of Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus, there’s no better place to start than our best phones of 2022.