What is Apple's Ceramic Shield? The iPhone protection tech explained

iPhone 13 Pro
(Image credit: TechRadar)

iPhones are seriously expensive and somewhat fragile gadgets, but Apple has added a feature to help you protect your investment with recent models, dubbed Ceramic Shield.

This is protection for the screen, and it’s an alternative to the Gorilla Glass used on many Android smartphones.

Ceramic Shield is exclusive to Apple phones (specifically the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 ranges) and Apple has made some big claims about it, but what exactly is Ceramic Shield? And just how good is it really? Read on for a deep dive into this tech.

What is Ceramic Shield made from?

Ceramic Shield is made by Corning (the same company as Gorilla Glass), and it’s made by embedding ceramic nanocrystals into the glass through a high-temperature crystallization process.

Beyond this, Ceramic Shield also uses dual ion-exchange, which basically means increasing the size of the ions so they’re more solid.

The combination of these two things makes for tougher glass, which is both more resistant to bumps and scratches, and also more likely to stay in one piece (rather than shattering) if it does get damaged.

But it’s an unusual construction because generally we don’t see ceramics used in screens. That’s probably at least partly because it’s not typically as transparent as normal glass, but that hasn’t posed a problem here, as the ceramic crystals used in its construction are smaller than the wavelength of light – so absolutely tiny in other words.

A picture of the Ceramic Shield protection on an iPhone 13 Pro

(Image credit: Apple)

How tough is Ceramic Shield?

Apple claims that Ceramic Shield is tougher than any other smartphone glass, and that it offers four times better drop protection than previous iPhones.

Sadly, the company hasn’t got more specific than that, but if those claims are true then Ceramic Shield is the best built-in smartphone screen protection you can get.

How does Ceramic Shield compare to Gorilla Glass Victus?

Gorilla Glass Victus (used in the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S21 range) is the latest and greatest version of Gorilla Glass at the time of writing, so it’s the main rival to Ceramic Shield – though both are made by Corning.

Given that Apple claims Ceramic Shield is tougher than any other smartphone glass, that presumably includes Gorilla Glass Victus, but the difference might not be big.

Corning claims that Gorilla Glass Victus is the toughest version of Gorilla Glass it’s ever made, and that it offers two times as much scratch resistance as Gorilla Glass 6, and four times as much as rival aluminosilicate glasses (that being the type of glass that Gorilla Glass is, but not the same type as Ceramic Shield).

Gorilla Glass Victus is also said to offer two-meter drop protection, which presumably means that Ceramic Shield can withstand drops from at least that height as well.

You might also want to check out the best Apple Watch screen protectors, and best iPhone screen protectors.

James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.