In what is possibly the geekiest rivalry in the smartphone industry—and that takes effort—the maker of tough smartphone screens known as Gorilla Glass is arguing that its much-hyped challenger sapphire is weaker, not to mention more expensive. Corning, Gorilla’s maker, is fighting it out with the upstart sapphire to dominate smartphone screens, the device part that’s often the most vulnerable and expensive to replace.
Smartphone screens made from sapphire—essentially aluminium oxide—are three times as hard and as scratch-resistant as Gorilla Glass. That makes them likely to shatter if dropped on the ground, and, according to Corning, more likely to shatter after being scratched. Corning conducted a test in which it subject both types of glass to a 45-minute “abrasion test.” Samples were dumped into a jar with a nuts, bolts, lipstick, a hairbrush, hairclips and other “everyday items.” The scuffed up phones were then put through a strength test, which found that Gorilla Glass can withstand more than twice as much pressure before breaking.
Gorilla Glass is found on more than 1,000 devices, possibly including the iPhone, though non-disclosure agreements prevent either company from saying so. Sapphire proponents say its toughness makes it a viable replacement, even though it costs ten times as much to produce and is 60% heavier. It is already used to cover the iPhone 5’s camera lens and is widely expected to cover Google’s “x Phone” later this year.
Corning argues that it continues to innovate, for instance, with the new, stronger Gorilla Glass 3 used on Samsung’s Salaxy S4. “It is unclear if sapphire can compete with Gorilla Glass,” Corning said in a statement. A slew of smartphone start-ups beg to differ.