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What is glass-ceramic? Apple's Ceramic Shield explained
Apple’s iPhone 12 sports a new protective glass coating called Ceramic Shield. Ceramic Shield promises up to 4x better drop resistance than previous iPhones, clear optical performance, and general scratch resistance. Apple hasn’t had the best reputation for glass protection in the past, so this seems like an important improvement.
So how exactly did Apple come up with this new glass technology, and how does it compare to other options on the market? Well, for starters, it’s made by Corning, the designers behind Gorilla Glass.
Apple’s iPhone 12 Ceramic Shield explained
Apple provides a clue about its latest choice of protective glass right in the name. The key is ceramic crystals.
These small ceramic nanocrystals are embedded in the glass matrix using a high-temperature crystallization manufacturing process. The interlocking structure of crystals helps to deflect cracks and chips. Corning further strengthens the glass via ion exchange (essentially increasing the ion sizes to create a more rigid structure) to help hold the glass together in the event of damage and reduce the signs of scratches.
According to Corning, “Ceramic Shield is tougher than any smartphone glass available today.” Apple claims Ceramic Shield offers 4x drop protection compared to previous iPhone models, so it should be very sturdy.
The main benefit of this ceramic approach is minimal flaws and tough strength. However, ceramics are not usually highly transparent like regular glass. We’ve seen ceramic glass used before on the back of smartphones like 2019’s Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus, but it’s used less often as a protective glass for displays for this reason. However, thanks to the use of tiny ceramic crystals that are smaller than the wavelength of light, Ceramic Shield ends up with very high transparency, making it suitable to cover the iPhone 12’s display.
Ceramic Shield vs Gorilla Glass Victus
So how does this differ from the latest Gorilla Glass Victus?
The big difference is that Victus is a strengthened alumino-silicate glass rather than a glass-ceramic. Alumino-silicate glass is known for its low weight, high scratch resistance, and extreme hardness. That makes it ideal to protect smartphone displays. This type of glass is also resistant to high temperatures and chemical degradation, although these properties aren’t really applicable to handsets.
Victus boasts up to two-meter drop protection, even on rough surfaces. Victus also offers 2x the scratch resistance of Gorilla Glass 6 and 4x the resistance of competitors’ aluminosilicate glasses, according to Corning. It does so all without increasing the thickness of the glass compared to previous generations.
Corning couldn’t comment on the specific strength and scratch resistance differences between the two, but did note that “Gorilla Glass Victus is the toughest Gorilla Glass we have made to date.” The Samsung Galaxy S21 series, Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, Redmi Note 10 Pro, and Xiaomi Mi 11 are protected by Victus, among others. We’re expecting more phones to feature the technology throughout 2021 and 2022.
Without a head-to-head comparison, we can’t say which offers the very best drop protection. But whether your phone sports the latest Ceramic Shield or Gorilla Glass, handsets are becoming that bit more resilient to scratches and drops.