Gorilla Glass: All It is Cracked Up to Be?

Is Corning’s Gorilla Glass as indestructible as many believe? EJ Wilkes writes:

Some people prefer the smaller form factor of the iPhone, but larger-screen devices seem to be the emerging standard for smart phones. Perhaps the larger the screen, the better the user experience?

On such devices, Corning’s Gorilla Glass is a popular choice by manufacturers to protect and provide scratch-free displays.

Is there really a need to layer protective films on top of these screens if they’re composed of Gorilla Glass? Also, wouldn’t it be smart for Apple to invest in improving upon this technology? I always see shattered screens on Apple devices during drop tests.

Gorilla Glass: is it indestructible?

Is Gorilla Glass All It is Cracked Up to Be?A little extra layer of protection doesn’t hurt. Ever.

If you drop any piece of glass in just the “right” spot, it’ll crack or shatter.

Apple wants to do things its way to better control the entire experience (and potentially save costs to increase its own profitability, which every publicly traded company should do).

I’ve dropped my phone and not shattered the glass, and I’ve dropped it and shattered the glass.

A larger screen does not a better user experience make…

I also think it’s disingenuous to suggest that “the larger the screen, the better the user experience.” No, the larger the screen, the larger the screen. A larger screen doesn’t even come close to implying a “better user experience.” Don’t confuse features with benefits, since single-handed operation is a benefit of a more compact form factor — and you simply cannot get that with a device that sports a “larger” screen.

…or does it?

Agreeing to disagree, LockerGnome writer Sherman E. DeForest has his own take:

Whoah! It is disingenuous to promote larger screens as being a better experience? If so, why would people buy them? Remember that, regardless of the distinction between features and benefits, the person buying the product is the ultimate determiner of what is good. If you bring out a product modification that does not improve user experience, it might have a short burst of sales, but it will surely fade away. Larger screens are not fading away. I have seen no tendency toward smaller screens. Obviously, the total function of phones is expanding and, with that, the optimum size is also expanding. Smaller screens will adorn smartwatches, but I do not think the screens on phones will shrink.

That said, larger screens based on glass, even Gorilla Glass, have problems by being brittle and breaking. See this video for an example of how much pounding a Samsung Galaxy S3 will take before breaking.

The future is soon. But until then…

A plastic cover can help protect against some hazards, but the very existence of such covers indicates that screens as we know them are too vulnerable for normal usage. My fearless prediction is that we will have nearly indestructible polymer-based flexible screens before long. Until then, we will suffer the occasional crack. But even if screens were totally flexible, they face another hazard: you. It might seem harmless rubbing your fingers of the surface, but we humans exude a variety of noxious compounds that can accumulate and compromise a surface. This is more than simple fingerprints sloshing about. I mean degradation from bacterial growth and occasional stains from pizza sauce.

You say, “Apple wants to do things its way to better control the entire experience (and potentially save costs to increase its own profitability, which every publicly traded company should do).” I agree about Apple wanting to control the entire experience. That has been a defining difference between Apple and PC products. Apple has always wanted complete control of hardware, software, and even distribution and sales. It does this to provide what it feels is a better service for customers with the idea profits will follow if the company does it correctly.

Finding the balance

Will Apple deviate from this model to promote larger screens only to increase profits without increasing user satisfaction? That is unlikely. We can only speculate on the company’s intent to increase profits, but I do not believe it would promote larger screens only for greater profits. Apple seems to have the right idea that the purpose of a corporation is to improve the delivery of goods and services to humanity. For doing that noble deed, a corporation is rewarded with profits. When corporations get that basic logic backwards and adopt making a profit as the highest good without concern for society, then we have evil such as the financial meltdown and pollution. Profits for a corporation are like the fish thrown to a performing seal. Without them, the seal has no reason to entertain. But no one believes feeding seals is the goal of trained animal shows. In the same way, we did not invent corporations to make profits. We have corporations to improve life, and we throw them fish to keep the action going. Apple got to where it is by understanding this distinction.

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Chris has consistently expressed his convictions and visions outright, supplying practical information to targeted audiences: media agencies, business owners, technology consumers, software and hardware professionals, et al. He remains a passionate personality in the tech community-at-large. He's a geek.