One of Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) primary component suppliers may provide the iPhone maker with its next display innovation. As first reported by the Wall Street Journal, Corning (NYSE:GLW) recently announced that it has developed a “novel 3D glass-forming technology” for manufacturing its proprietary Gorilla Glass. Corning’ scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass is currently used by Apple for its iPhone and iPad displays.
However, Corning’s new manufacturing process creates exciting new design possibilities for Apple. “More than half of the top 10 smartphone manufacturers already market devices that incorporate cover glass with subtle curves, and the demand for even more-dramatic form factors is increasing,” stated Corning. “Corning’s 3D-forming technology meets this demand and expands the design possibilities for industrial designers.”
Apple rival Samsung (SSNLF.PK) has already released its own curved display smartphone, although it is not yet for sale in the U.S. The Galaxy Round incorporates Samsung’s AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) flexible display technology to create a concave smartphone shape. However, with availability limited to the Korean market and a retail price around $1,000, the Galaxy Round doesn’t appear to be a practical option for most consumers.
On the other hand, Corning’s 3D-forming technology appears to be ready for mass production. The company has partnered with Taiwan’s G-Tech Optoelectronics in order to set up a facility that is conveniently located in a region where many of Apple’s component suppliers are already based.
“We can now take Gorilla Glass all the way from flat sheet to a finished 3D-shaped product in Asia, expediting turnaround times and minimizing logistical complexity,” noted Corning Specialty Materials SVP and GM James R. Steiner. “That’s a win for Corning and our customers.”
Although Corning did not reveal if Apple might be one of its customers for the new 3D-shaped Gorilla Glass, there have been previous unconfirmed rumors about the upcoming release of a curved iPhone. Last November, Bloomberg cited an unnamed insider source that reported Apple’s next iPhone iterations will feature larger screens with displays that curve down over the edge of the devices.
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