06-02 Ceramic Shield

[Image above] The recently released iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro feature a glass-ceramic cover rather than conventional glass. Credit: Apple, YouTube

Last summer, the phone world was abuzz with Corning’s announcement of Gorilla Glass Victus, the newest generation of the chemically strengthened Gorilla Glass brand.

Compared to previous generations, Gorilla Glass Victus improved both scratch resistance and drop resistance, properties that are difficult to improve at the same time. Since 2014, Corning had focused on improving drop resistance, but with Victus, Corning started the design process almost from square one to account for both properties in the glass.

Several phones containing Gorilla Glass Victus are now available for purchase, and traditionally we would now wait about two years before the next generation of Gorilla Glass hits the market. In October 2020, though, Apple made a big announcement—the new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro would feature Ceramic Shield, a glass-ceramic developed in collaboration with Corning.

Credit: Apple

Glass-ceramics are a hybrid material that features nanoceramic crystals embedded within a glass matrix. Glass-ceramics are tougher than glass, but the crystals have traditionally affected the material’s transparency. The Ceramic Shield developed by Apple and Corning, though, retains optical transparency by optimizing type of crystals and degree of crystallinity—and thus makes Ceramic Shield usable as a screen cover.

Ceramic Shield undergoes the dual ion-exchange process used to chemically strengthen Gorilla Glass and also sits flush to the edge of the phone. Together, these process and design decisions give Ceramic Shield 4x better drop performance compared to the previous iPhone generation, according to Apple.

“We are incredibly proud of our collaboration with Apple on Ceramic Shield, made possible in part through the Advanced Manufacturing Fund and the hard work and dedication of hundreds of individuals at Corning and Apple,” Wendell P. Weeks, Corning’s chairman and chief executive officer, says in an Apple news release. “We thank Apple for our longstanding product-development partnership and for their continued commitment to supporting the American workforce.”

It’s important to remember that even with improved drop performance, Ceramic Shield can still crack. And with the iPhone 12 featuring an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display rather than the conventional liquid crystal display used in previous iPhone versions, replacing a cracked screen will cost a pretty penny. If you do purchase an iPhone 12, you may want to buy a case and screen protector as well!