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Smartphones have been getting more durable over the years, and on the glass front, that’s mostly thanks to Corning’s Gorilla Glass. While it’s not always publicly credited, Gorilla Glass has been a secret sauce of major smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Apple’s iPhones. Its latest iteration, Gorilla Glass 6, has some interesting new qualities that could open up truly creative possibilities for future smartphones.
According to Dr. Jaymin Amin, vice president of technology and product development with Corning Gorilla Glass and Corning Specialty Materials, Gorilla Glass 6 has a new composition that can be chemically strengthened to give it significantly higher levels of compression, which means it’s better resistant to cracking and breakage, particularly through multiple drop events. (And according to consumer research group Toluna, people drop their phones an average of seven times a year.)
The material also has good optical clarity, touch sensitivity, and scratch resistance, along with efficient wireless charging capabilities and increased durability compared to older versions of the material.
Most interesting, however, is that a variant called “Vibrant” Gorilla Glass can also be engineered to look and feel like other, non-glass materials. Between printed images and strategic etching, the glass can be made to resemble highly polished marble, wood, snakeskin, or rock. According to Mashable, sample designs mimicked other materials with surprising accuracy.
“It’s enough customization that makes me question whether I would even bother buying a case for my phone if I had a say in choosing the design,” Mashable says. In a twist on more traditional glass-based phone designs, Corning can also pair it with color gradients for a fun effect.
What all this means: upcoming generations of smartphones should not only be more durable, they may also start coming in more creative color, pattern, and texture variants. While perhaps not fully customizable—that wouldn’t be particularly cost-effective for manufacturers looking at making good profit margins—smartphone makers could begin offering a wider variety of phone appearance options, or unique limited edition runs.
Perhaps Gorilla Glass 6 will end the age of the boring, black smartphone slab. We can only hope.
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.