At some point in 2019, phone customers began to accept ugly camera modules. Extremely good photos taken by these cameras justified their bulbs with three or six eyes. And in 2020, much bigger troubles in society took precedence over resentment over the brand-sized camera crash.
However, where consumers saw awkward camera modules, glass maker Corning saw opportunities. Corning, which is best known today for its workmanship Gorilla Glass covering almost every high-end smartphone, he noticed that the latest designed smartphone cameras are more prone to scratches, both because of the increased surface area of the lens module and because of the way the lenses protrude from the phone. When enough scratches appear on the lens, the quality of the photos begins to suffer. Turns out there is a glass for it.
Corning announced its latest composite today: A new version of Gorilla Glass optimized for camera lenses on a smartphone. A version of the new composite, called Gorilla Glass DX and DX +, technically already exists; in July 2018, the company launched this product for use on the faces of smart watches, advertising its “improved optical clarity, readability of sunlight, exceptional toughness and scratch resistance.” But Corning had to redesign the DX and DX + composite for smartphones to be able to look for a certain level of scratch resistance without compromising the quality of photography and video – basically, maximizing the amount of optical clarity, and at the same time durability.
“We are seeing demands for better light management begin to emerge in several different device verticals,” says Scott Forester, Corning’s vice president of marketing and innovation at Gorilla Glass. “As camera systems for smartphones become more sophisticated, all those lenses and that protrusion from the camera led to scratches. [Manufacturers] they said, “Well, I can’t use anti-reflective film there, so I just have to deal with what I have there today,” and that’s mostly glass. “
The Forester goes on to describe how the properties of this composite make it more ideal for lenses on the camera cover. Cover lenses typically have an anti-reflective coating that reduces glare, but allows only about 95 percent of the available light to reach the camera sensor. Corning claims that this new version of DX and DX + for smartphone lenses allows the camera to capture 98 percent of the light while still maintaining scratch resistance on standard Gorilla Glass. (It is also claimed that the DX + product approaches the qualities of scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, a synthetic material known for its durability, transparency and the cost it adds to devices.)
Corning declined to share which specific phone models will soon ship with Gorilla Glass DX or DX +. Consistent with his past behavior, Corning would not comment on the nature of his partnership with Apple. It is said that Samsung will be the first customer to use Gorilla Glass DX for camera lens caps. Samsung did it is expected to unveil at least five new products next month at its annual summer unpacked event, which could include flip phones as well as new wearables; it will probably also be the official launch of this new Corning product, although Corning has not confirmed this.
Corning isn’t the only manufacturer looking to enhance smartphone photos – as much as the enhancements could be – with technology designed to enhance lenses instead of image sensors. Julian Chokkattu of WIRED wrote earlier this year about a startup called Metalenz, which replaces today ‘s usual set of multiple camera lenses with a single lens built on a small glass plate.