What it is: Gorilla Glass is Corning’s toughened glass used in almost every smartphone and tablet made today.
Corning originally developed Gorilla Glass way back in the 1960s when they created a lightweight, but strong glass for commercial and industrial applications. In 1969, corning used Gorilla Glass in the Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda racing cars to minimize weight. However, Corning essentially let Gorilla Glass languish until Apple asked for a toughened glass to use in the iPhone.
Nowadays, almost every smartphone and tablet uses Gorilla Glass. In fact without Gorilla Glass, it’s safe to say that most smartphones and tablets of today wouldn’t exist. That’s why smartphones in the past had tiny screens and tablets of the past were essentially laptop screens that folded down to protect them from damage.
Without Apple’s initiative to push the limits of what’s possible, other smartphone and tablet manufacturers would have been content to use off-the-shelf parts that create an unsatisfactory design. Just look at those ancient Tablet PCs that so many manufacturers tried to sell where the screen folded backwards over the keyboard to create an unwieldy, bulky, and heavy tablet that almost nobody used. When the iPad arrived, it redefined the tablet market just as the iPhone before it had redefined the smartphone market.
That’s the big difference between Apple and most other manufacturers. Apple keeps designing products and then tries to find a way to make them work. Other companies settle for compromises to use what’s available regardless of whether the end result is useful or not. Once Apple helps lead the way, that’s when the rest of world follows and then pretends they’re not copying Apple at all.
Gorilla Glass wasn’t Apple’s invention and existed long before Apple even came into being. However Corning couldn’t find a use for Gorilla Glass until Apple helped them discover its major use, which was to create large screens for smartphones and tablets. Gorilla Glass screens still shatter with disturbing regularity, but nowhere near the rate that ordinary glass would shatter.
Without Apple leading the way, PCs, smartphones, and tablets would still remain as primitive tools that nobody would like or use. Even if you don’t like Apple products, you can’t ignore the influence that Apple has had on the computer industry over the past few decades.
The next time you use a smartphone or tablet, tap the screen. Gorilla Glass is everywhere partly because of Apple’s use of Gorilla Glass in the iPhone screen. Gorilla Glass still isn’t perfect, but it represents an interesting use of technology that other companies simply ignored until Apple helped show them the way.