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New Gorilla Glass will make smartwatches harder to scratch

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Gorilla Glass SR+ promo image Corning

Corning is introducing a new type of Gorilla Glass designed specifically for smartwatches, fitness trackers, and other wearables. The new glass is called Gorilla Glass SR+, and it’s designed with a focus on scratch resistance, since it’s pretty easy to scrape up something that’s worn on your wrist all day.

The goal here is to let Gorilla Glass become the go-to covering for wearables the same way it’s become ubiquitous on smartphones and tablets. To do that, Corning is clearly going after a direct competitor here — sapphire crystal — and trying to prove that it has the better option.

Apple uses sapphire crystal to cover the higher-end Apple Watch models, since it’s much harder to scratch than glass. For Corning, there’s a risk that it could spread to other devices — or that other companies could start using it as well; but crystal sapphire is difficult to make, so there’s good reason to seek out alternatives.

Corning is trying to replicate the good qualities of sapphire crystal while removing the bad ones. Without naming names, Corning says SR+’s scratch resistance is “approaching that of alternative luxury cover materials.” SR+ emerged out of a research project Corning called “Project Phire,” so you can probably guess what it’s going after.

At the same time, Corning says that SR+ glass has “70 percent better damage resistance against impacts and 25 percent better surface reflection” than that same “luxury cover material.” That’s particularly important, since sapphire crystal is known for being scratch resistant, but prone to cracking after a drop.

If Corning’s claims hold up, then it seems like SR+ may strike the best of both worlds, offering better scratch resistance than regular glass but better crack resistance than sapphire crystal.

We’re likely to see it put to the test very soon. The IFA trade show kicks off this week and announcements are already starting to pour out of it. Expect at least some of those to be wearables covered in SR+.