Shattered glass screens on smartphones, smartwatches, tablets and laptops may become a thing of the past. Samsung is hoping to bring a tougher strengthened glass that can withstand abuse and damage better than the industry-leading Gorilla Glass today.
The protective glass, which is known as Turtle, has appeared on Chinese social media site Weibo. There isn't much information about Turtle at this time, but there's speculation that the glass can also bend, which would make it suitable for Samsung's foldable smartphone endeavor known as Project Valley.
And because Samsung produces components for other companies to use – in addition to competing fiercely with Apple in the notebook and smartphone space, Samsung had also manufactured processors, memory and displays for iPhones and Macs in the past – Turtle could potentially appear on non-Samsung products in the future.
A curve in the road
Samsung has been experimenting with bendable displays. Even though none of the company's mobile products can fold, Samsung has shown the power of flexible screens on products like the Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Galaxy Round.
Turtle can bring added value to Samsung's flexible display by giving it the same or better protection as rigid Gorilla Glass, but adding elasticity.
For consumers, this means phones that are less prone to damage and the arrival of new form factors for mobile devices. For example, if Samsung's vision is realized, it could lead to a tablet that folds down to the size of a smartphone with similar or better protection as Gorilla Glass.
Not only can Turtle open the doors to more novel innovations and form factors, the strengthened glass can benefit consumers by being tougher. Americans alone spend roughly $23 billion (£14 billion, AU$31 billion) a year replacing shattered phones, according to a report on Bankrate.
This presents a huge opportunity for Samsung to entice customers to not only choose its products, but its components. Customers who may not want to spend money replacing damaged screens may opt to find products that carry the Samsung Turtle branding.
This would also be a huge win for enterprise customers seeking ruggedized products, and Turtle could find a natural fit in rugged tablets and laptops.
Shattered screens have led Samsung rivals HTC and Motorola to offer free, discounted or low-cost screen replacement programs in the event of accidental damage. Apple charges up to $149 (£95, AU$207) for a screen replacement, while HTC's Uh-Oh warranty program offers a one-time free replacement in the event of accidental damage.
A future in Apple
Samsung's screen can show up in future Apple products if the two companies are willing to sign agreements. Samsung used to be a top supplier to Apple, but the relationship deteriorated after Steve Jobs accused Samsung of infringing on Apple's technology and copying the iPhone's design. This resulted in multiple global lawsuits between the two rivals.
If Samsung can mend its ties with Apple, Turtle can potentially appear on Apple's smartphones, monitors, laptops, tablets and the company's oft-rumored self-driving car. Bendable glass would be great for contoured dash screens, and a more resilient glass can be appealing for stronger windshields.
Rival Corning highlights that since Gorilla Glass is lighter than regular glass, it reduces the weight of the vehicle and could lead to better fuel efficiency. For electric cars, it could mean more miles between recharges.
As Apple increases the screen sizes on its smartphones and tablets with devices like the iPhone 6S Plus and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, stronger glass will help protect these devices better.
Apple has been secretive about its component suppliers in the past. However it was widely believed that Gorilla Glass had appeared on earlier iPhone models. Apple chose to only describe the iPhone 6S's glass as "using a special dual ion‑exchange process, which makes it stronger at a molecular level and the most durable in the smartphone industry." The company chose not to reveal the name of the supplier for this glass, whereas rivals like Samsung and HTC often boast about the inclusion of Gorilla Glass on their products.
Apple's strategy has been to promote its own products and brands over the components and technology. If Turtle makes its way onto a future iPhone, Apple would likely not use it by name, and only market the technology as being better for consumers as a stronger material.
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