Corning exec slams sapphire, calling it heavy and environmentally unfriendly

By , Mar 5, 2014

GT Advanced (furnaces, Pocketnow 001)

We’ve known for a while now that Corning, the manufacturer behind Gorilla Glass used in several mobile devices, wasn’t a fan of sapphire crystal as an option for protective display material. And why should it be, considering the tech is a direct competitor to its flagship Gorilla line.

But at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference yesterday, the company escalated the beef with some comments made by SVP Tony Tripeny. When asked about the ‘puts and takes’ of sapphire, the exec called it heavy, expensive and environmentally unfriendly…

Seeking Alpha (via CNET) has the transcript of the exchange:

James Fawcett – Morgan Stanley

Okay, got it. So we mentioned Sapphire and obviously, there is one large handset and device maker that people suspect maybe looking at Sapphire. From your perspective, does it make sense for device makers of any ilk to be looking at Sapphire? And at least from a Corning perspective, where the puts and takes of Sapphire versus glass?

Tony Tripeny – Principal Accounting Officer, Senior Vice President, Corporate Controller

When we look at it, we see a lot of disadvantages of Sapphire versus Gorilla Glass. It’s about 10 times more expensive. It’s about 1.6 times heavier. It’s environmentally unfriendly. It takes about 100 times more energy to generate a Sapphire crystal than it does glass. It transmits less light which it means either dimmer devices or shorter battery life. It continues to break. I think while it’s scratch resistant product it still breaks and our testing says that Gorilla Glass, about 2.5 times more pressure that it can take than Sapphire on. So when we look at it, we think from an overall industry and trend that is not attractive in consumer electronics.”

It’s obvious that the ‘one large handset and device maker’ Fawcett is referring to is Apple, so you have to believe that Tripeny is speaking indirectly to them. The company confirmed last fall that it has teamed up with GT Advanced to build a sapphire crystal production plant in Arizona.

And the rumors have only grown bigger since then. Apple started hiring engineers for the plant in early January, and by the end of the month Foxconn had 100 iPhones with sapphire displays in trial production. It’s widely believed now that the plant is being used to make iPhone displays.

Corning Antimicrobial Gorilla Glass (image 001)

All of this makes Tripeny’s comments more interesting. If there really are so many negatives for sapphire glass, why has Apple seemingly chosen it over Gorilla Glass? Was there a falling out between the two companies? Has Apple discovered more viable/efficient production methods?

We likely won’t learn the answers to these questions until after Apple announces the next iPhone, which isn’t expected for several months. It’s believed that the handset will launch in late-summer or early-fall with a refreshed design, a larger display and the usual slew of internal upgrades.

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  • Domodo

    Can’t blame them. If I were about to lose a giant business partner, I’d be upset too.

    • ✪ aidan harris ✪

      They need to stop throwing their toys out of their pram though and either accept this or make Apple an offer they can’t refuse…

      • h4nd0fg0d

        ‘Toys out of their pram,’ lol!

  • on3simpleclick

    Using the ‘environmentally unfriendly’ card, isn’t going to help Corning at all.
    Technology is constantly evolving & if it means using sapphire crystal screens on Apples’ new iDevices, which are supposedly stronger & more durable than gorilla glass; then it’s bad luck for Corning.

  • jack

    this assh0le is lying. they cheated on the test sapphire vs gorilla glass by using a large sapphire sample, which causes more stress to it.

  • http://twitter.com/int3nsive Int3nsive

    I don’t care how fancy the name is. Just let the quality prevail, doesn’t matter which one is… Gorilla… Sapphire… you name it

  • Fundy fish

    The major thing about sapphire crystal I’d that its actually not as strong as gorilla glass. Its more scratch resistant but if you drop it there’s a higher chance it will break.

    • arsenal6

      wheres your source? As i recall sapphire crystals are the hardest element next to diamonds

      • Kash Gummaraju

        1. Sapphire and Diamonds are not elements
        2. It’s the second hardest material
        Hardness means scratch resistance, not break resistance. This is taught to children in their science classes in elementary school.

      • jp2002

        Diamond IS an element. its not a compound! Correct it.

      • Kash Gummaraju

        Really is it an element? Then how many electrons does it have on each individual diamond atom? How many more electrons does it need to achieve a full octet? Diamond is made up of many carbon atoms all bonded together. If you still consider diamond an element, show me its location on the periodic table.

      • jp2002

        Diamond is an allotrope of carbon, and carbon is in the periodic table. Basic elementary chem – first chapter – elements compounds and mixtures.

    • Evan_Beezy

      how likely are you to drop something thats attached yo your wrist. I see this mainly for the iWatch. how easy is it to shape the sapphire vs the glass. I think these are the things Apple is more interested in.

  • http://www.sk1wbw.wordpress.com/ Wayne Williams

    So glass is environmentally unfriendly now?

    • Kash Gummaraju

      Sapphire glass is.

      • http://www.sk1wbw.wordpress.com/ Wayne Williams

        How so?

      • ImLouis

        Apparently it uses more energy to build sapphire glass compared to gorilla glass BUT I also read that the company who make the displays for apple ( GT Advanced Technologies ) uses 100% renewable energy like solar and wind

      • http://www.sk1wbw.wordpress.com/ Wayne Williams

        Using more energy doesn’t equate to being environmentally bad. Energy is, after all, the flow of electrons through a closed circuit.

      • Fundy fish

        Nope that’s electricity not energy, big difference.

      • sanjeev chahar

        lets say

        Energy = Electricity

        Sources of Electricity generation = around 45% coal, 24% natural gas, 20% nuclear and 1% petroleum and rest % other sources.

        Now, more energy consumption = More carbon emission

        More carbon emission = Increase in global warming and climate change
        So More Energy consumption = Environmentally unfriendly

      • Gary Doan

        Solar and wind, did you even read the comment ? “( GT Advanced Technologies ) uses 100% renewable energy like solar and wind”

  • Chindavon

    The Corning guys can dismiss it all they want, but these scared & defensive comments say a lot about where their minds are with this potential $ sucking problem.

  • JulianZH

    they are mad because they cant milk more money from apple haha

  • http://twitter.com/mrmberman Marc

    iPhone 5 sitting here, never had a screen protector, now 16 months old and not a scratch to be found anywhere. Looking forward to a lighter and not heavier iPhone 6.

    • Carlos Gomes

      What? You’re one of those crazy yolos who dare to not use a screen protector, so you can actually appreciate the design that people cares so much about?
      High five!

  • Kash Gummaraju

    That still does not mean diamond itself is an element, it is another form of carbon found in nature. Carbon is the element, diamond is a bunch of carbon atoms connected to each other. Just like how the oxygen we breathe is 2 Oxygen atoms connected. But O2 is not an element.

  • Kash Gummaraju

    Actually regardless of the video, sapphire glass is still an undesirable material. A diving watch requires a very small piece of glass, and yet they don’t use sapphire glass, because it can’t withstand high pressure regardless of size.

  • Octavio Guevara

    Itś crApple, they don’t care about environment, only $$