It won’t surprise many readers that Corning Glass executives may be less than enthusiastic about sapphire glass, and its uses in mobile devices.
… Corning Glass executive Tony Tripeny named the apparently numerous drawbacks to using sapphire crystal in a mobile device, something which Apple is widely expected to do with an upcoming iPhone.
During a round of questions at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference the conversation with two Corning executives, CFO James Flaws and SVP and Corporate Controller Tripeny, the conversation quickly turned to Gorilla Glass and sapphire.
Analyst James Fawcett asked, “So we mentioned Sapphire and obviously there is one large handset and device maker that people suspect may be looking at Sapphire,” (we’ll leave it to the reader about what handset maker Fawcett could possibly be referring to…) “And at least from a Corning perspective, [what are] the puts and takes of Sapphire versus glass?”
Tripeny replied with a long lists of perceived negatives about the Gorilla Glass competitor. “When we look at it, we see a lot of disadvantages of Sapphire versus Gorilla Glass,” Tripeny said. “It’s about 10 times more expensive. It’s about 1.6 times heavier. It’s environmentally unfriendly. It takes about 100 times more energy to generate a Sapphire crystal than it does glass. It transmits less light which…means either dimmer devices or shorter battery life. It continues to break.”
Tripeny continued his attack, and while conceding that sapphire is highly scratch resistant, he maintained that Corning’s test have proven that Gorilla Glass can withstand 2.5X more pressure.
Apple seems to be unconvinced, as evidenced by the new Mesa, Arizona facility the company has built in partnership with sapphire maker GT Advanced Technology. The new facility is destined to provide Apple with massive amounts of sapphire to be used in “future products.” Apple currently puts sapphire to use as a covering for its iPhone 5s Touch ID-enabled Home button, and as a covering for the device’s rear camera lens.
Corning does stand to lose a nice source of revenue if Apple opts for sapphire glass for its device’s displays, so it’s understandable that the subject is a sore one for Corning.