Smartphones break. They get dropped, sat on, and tossed around on a regular basis, which is why they all let the magic smoke out sooner or later. Alas, smartphone makers can't make people treat their gadgets with greater care. They can, however, make tougher phones.
This is where Gorilla Glass comes into play. Over the past decade or so, this cleverly engineered material has found its way into numerous smartphone models, protecting their most vulnerable component – the display – from damage. And now, in its fifth generation, Gorilla Glass is more awesome then ever. So awesome, in fact, that Samsung and Apple could be in talks with its maker, Corning, about using Gorilla Glass 5 in their upcoming devices. According to rumors, that is. But what makes Gorilla Glass 5 so special and what are its key strengths? Well, let us explain.
If you take a handful of beach sand and heat it up to a few thousand degrees, it will melt and turn into glass. In a nutshell, this is how people have been producing the versatile yet fragile material for ages, using it to make anything from skyscraper windows to those cutesy mason jars they sell at IKEA.
On a related note, other types of strengthened glass are made in a similar fashion. This includes the cover glass on the iPhone 6s, which is manufactured using a dual ion-exchange process.
Each successive generation of Gorilla Glass brought improvements to the overall durability of the material, but the launch of Gorilla Glass 5 sure seems like Corning's greatest leap forward to date. According to its maker, the material will survive a 1.6-meter (5.25-feet) face-down drop onto a rough surface in up to 80% of cases. That's basically a drop from shoulder height – while taking a dramatic group selfie, for instance. By comparison, Gorilla Glass 4 could achieve such a success rate from a height of only 1 meter (3.3 feet). It was still up to two times stronger than Gorilla Glass 3, though. Needless to say, Gorilla Glass 5 also promises great touch sensitivity and optical clarity, just like its predecessors.
To be clear, Samsung has not yet confirmed that Gorilla Glass 5 will be used in the Galaxy Note 7, but the rumors claiming that's the case are believable. As its maker announced, GG5 is "commercially available and is expected to be on product models from leading global brands later this year." Moreover, this won't be the first time when a new generation of Gorilla Glass debuts on a Samsung product. Gorilla Glass 4, for example, first appeared on the Samsung Galaxy Alpha. The material was later used on the Galaxy Note 4 as well.
As far as the next iPhone is concerned, its screen is very likely to be covered by strengthened glass made by Corning. It won't be necessarily called Gorilla Glass 5, but it could very well be manufactured in a similar way, having identical mechanical and optical properties. The scenario seems plausible, as Corning has a history of working with Apple, supplying cover glass for a number of iPhone models (including the iPhone that started it all). The material has never been referred to as Gorilla Glass, however.
To sum it all up, Gorilla Glass 5 will be tougher, but it will not be indestructible. It will surely break if its implementation in the Galaxy Note 7 or the iPhone 7 isn't optimal or if you simply happen to drop your phone the "right" way. Still, we're optimistic about the performance of the material's newest generation, especially given the substantial improvements demonstrated in lab tests. More on the matter is likely to be made known in just a few days – on August 2, when the Galaxy Note 7 is expected to be announced.