When Samsung announces its Galaxy S23 lineup in February, it might have the toughest screens on a smartphone yet — because Corning’s just-announced Gorilla Glass Victus 2 can take a bigger beating than ever. For the first time, Corning is advertising that your phone should be able to survive a one-meter (waist-high) drop on concrete specifically, one of the most notoriously difficult surfaces to protect against.
More importantly, Corning claims it’s not making any tradeoffs to get there. Like 2020’s Gorilla Glass Victus, the new glass should still withstand a two-meter (head / selfie height) drop on a smoother asphalt surface, survive over 20 one-meter drops in a row, and shouldn’t be any more susceptible to scratches. (In 2018, we explained how Corning sometimes had to compromise on scratch resistance, but Victus was a big step forward, and Corning says it’s maintaining the same level as that.)
Corning wouldn’t say if there was a specific breakthrough in materials science that now lets phones survive drops on concrete — rather, it sounds like a choice. Gorilla Glass division VP Scott Forester tells me the company actively decided to protect against concrete with this generation of glass, adjusting the composition and “stress profiles” until engineers found something they were satisfied with.
Why concrete, specifically? It’s what phone makers were asking for. “Over 30 percent of the drops they were having were on concrete, more than any other surface,” says Forester.
It wasn’t always that way. Even a couple of years back, “it was about survival on smooth surfaces,” Forester says. But as smartphone glass got stronger, people wouldn’t wind up cracking their phones until they dropped them on rougher pavement. “What we learned over time is about 75 percent of the drop failures come on rough surfaces — asphalt or rough granite or concrete for that matter,” he adds.
Now, concrete is the biggest remaining pain point that Corning can try to cross off the list.
The weight and size of a phone is another thing that’s changed over the years. They’re 15 percent heavier and 10 percent larger than they were four years ago, according to Corning estimates. The company says its tests account for those changes: to simulate the impact of a phone on concrete, it now repeatedly drops a puck that weighs about 200 grams (seven ounces) facedown onto a piece of 80-grit sandpaper atop a hard surface. Two hundred grams is roughly the same weight as a midsize Samsung S22 Plus, though there are certainly heavier phones on the market.
Speaking of Samsung, it hasn’t been confirmed quite yet that the Korean electronics giant will be using the new glass. Corning announced that Samsung would be its first client for Gorilla Glass Victus in 2020, while Apple opted to partner with Corning on its own exclusive “Ceramic Shield” glass instead.
But in 2020, Corning told me that the glass would first appear on a flagship phone “in the next few months,” and that’s the exact same wording that Forester used as well. Victus 2 will be coming to “some very large OEMs in the next few months, primarily on their flagship phones,” and Samsung is the biggest manufacturer expected to launch flagship phones in that window. I suppose we’ll see, though — maybe Samsung will announce another new exclusive glass for itself.