How Steve Jobs made Corning Gorilla Glass a regular feature on smartphones

Apple was the first touchscreen smartphone to use Corning's Gorilla Glass

by Ivan Mehta

Corning's Gorilla Glass is a giant name in the smartphone industry today. The display technology is the highest earner for the company as well. But, did you know that there was a time when no one was ready to invest in the glass protecting the smartphone screen and each smartphone display actually used a plastic layer for plastic protection? All that changed, when late Apple CEO Steve jobs took a bold decision to change the entire course of the industry.


In 2006, months before the launch of the phone Jobs, was unsatisfied with the durability of the display. "Look at this, what's with the screen?" he said. The executive explained that the prototype with the glass display fails even a one-meter drop test. But Jobs wasn't listening and he wanted a solution.

Tony Fadell, one of the key members of the team, chimed in saying that it was hard to find a replacement glass at such a short notice. Apple even tried to develop its own display but failed to come to a fruitful conclusion.
A friend of Jobs suggested him to contact Corning. The company had developed a really tough glass called Chemcor in the 1960s. It was 15 times stronger than regular glass at that time. The company used aluminium oxide to the glass composition to add to its strength and durability. But due to the lack of practical applications, the project was scrapped. The project was reborn with Motorola's Razr flip phone.
Jobs went to New York to meet the Corning CEO Wendell Weeks. Jobs was skeptical about the Gorilla Glass product. He started to explain the science of glass to Weeks. Weeks interrupted him and said, "Can you shut up and let me teach you some science?"
The Apple CEO was convinced in the end and wanted the company to mass produce the glass for the display. However, Weeks was not sure if they had the production capability.
"Don't be afraid. Get your mind around it. You can do it," Jobs said. In six months, Corning made the first iteration of the Gorilla glass for the iPhone. Today, almost every notable smartphone uses it for the display protection. Jobs made Corning a star.
Based on the stories from the books Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs Biography and Brian Merchant's The One Device: Secret History of the iPhone.

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