A new report says Apple supplier Corning, the makers of Gorilla Glass, is actively developing a foldable glass solution that could one day end up in a foldable iPhone.
With the debut of foldable smartphones from Samsung and Huawei, much speculation has been made over when Apple will release a similar product. As we know, Apple doesn’t tend to leap into the latest tech fad until all the bugs have been worked out.
Early folding displays rely on plastic polymers to allow for flexibility in the displays. Plastic has a tendency to crease and crinkle with extended use. The material is also easier to scratch than displays used in standard smartphones.
“In a glass solution, you’re really challenging the laws of physics, in that to get a very tight bend radius you want to go thinner and thinner, but you also have to be able to survive a drop event and resist damage,” Corning general manager John Bayne recently told Wired.
“The back of the problem we’re trying to break, the technical challenge, is, can you keep those tight 3- to 5-millimeter bend radii and also increase the damage resistance of the glass. That’s the trajectory we’re on.”
Wired says Corning is building upon its experience with Willow Glass, which has the ability to roll up like a sheet of paper, which gets its strength from an ion-exchange process. However, that process requires dipping the glass in a molten salt solution. Salt unfortunately corrodes transistors, making Willow Glass an unsuitable solution for flexible phones. Corning is looking at ways to get around this.
Corning’s Bayne says the company’s foldable glass solution should be ready for prime time in a couple of years, which means it should be ready just about the same time Apple is ready to dip its toe into the foldable smartphone waters.