Apple has announced that its new smartphones use Ceramic Shield. Thanks to it, the risk of damage to the display if dropped is four times reduced. This innovation is certainly commendable, but what is so special about this coating?
According to Apple employees, Ceramic Shield was created in collaboration with Corning, which produces Gorilla glass, which is widely used in smartphones, smartwatches, laptops and other gadgets. Ceramic Shield is based on glass ceramics, which are superior in properties to both glass and ceramics. This is how Apple itself describes the technology:
Ceramic Shield front panel. During its manufacture, ceramic nanocrystals are added to the glass matrix, which are stronger than many known metals. It sounds simple, but it’s actually a very complex technology because ceramic crystals are opaque. Only by precisely choosing the type of crystal and the degree of its crystallization, we were able to develop a unique formula for the material, which has the strength of ceramics and the transparency of glass. This makes the Ceramic Shield perfect for the display – because it is much more reliable.
Durability is good, but we also wanted to provide protection from scratches. Therefore, the Ceramic Shield uses the same double ion exchange process that we use for the glass back: it provides excellent protection against cracks, scratches and other minor damage.
It’s not just Ceramic Shield that we’ve achieved this strength. The front panel mounts flush with the chassis for added protection. As a result, the risk of damaging the iPhone if dropped is reduced by 4 times.
The iPhone 12 isn’t the first smartphones to use glass ceramics. The Essential Phone, Xiaomi Mi Mix series and Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus had the same material, but this coating was applied to the back cover, and there was a tempered Gorilla glass on the front. Apple uses glass ceramics in the iPhone 12 line to protect the screen, as damage is much more critical than a broken case.
Glass-ceramic materials have existed and are used in various fields for a very long time, but engineers at Apple and Corning have adapted the technology for use in smartphones. Their main task was to make a light, thin, but at the same time the most durable coating. How well they coped with it will be shown by crash tests and the experience of real use of smartphones.