Corning has said it is close to launching a sapphire competitor.

For years, Corning has, er, cornered the smartphone market with its Gorilla Glass. Many tech giants, including Samsung and Apple, have used the company's glass for their mobile devices and displays, simply because of its robust nature and scratch-resistant shielding. Reports in recent years however have claimed Corning's dominance is under threat.

A rival technology called sapphire is muscling into the smartphone market. It is considered one of the hardest materials on Earth, but it's also five times the cost of glass. According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple consumes one-fourth of the world’s supply of sapphire in order to cover Apple Watch and the iPhone’s camera lens and fingerprint reader.

But it looks like Corning is nearly ready to take back some of the business it has lost to sapphire. It is developing a Gorilla Glass-like composite, dubbed Project Phire, with scratch resistance that approaches sapphire. Corning executive James Clappin announced the material and Corning's latest plans at a New York investor meeting on 6 February.

"We told you last year that sapphire was great for scratch performance but didn't fare well when dropped," said Clappin, president of Corning Glass Technologies, according to CNET. "So, we created a product that offers the same superior damage resistance and drop performance of Gorilla Glass 4 with scratch resistance that approaches sapphire."

Sapphire is typically produced synthetically, in furnaces that reach more than 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit. It has become a go-to material for companies not because it is shatter-proof, but because it's really difficult to scratch. Corning's new material is expected to join both worlds: it'll be highly damage-resistant and scratch-resistant.

Corning unveiled in November a new product called Gorilla Glass 4, which supposedly offers twice the toughness as its predecessor, Gorilla Glass 3, but now the company plans to start selling Project Phire glass later this year.

READ: Corning Gorilla Glass 4 unveiled, twice as strong as the competition