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(Pocket-lint) - For many years, Corning has, er, cornered the smartphone market with its Gorilla Glass. Many manufacturers, including Samsung and Apple, use the technology as the front glass on their smartphones and other devices because of its robust nature and scratch-resistant shielding.

However, the dominance is under threat, as a report suggests that a rival technology could muscle in on the smartphone market and would provide even greater protection for your future devices.

Sapphire glass is already used in the miltary - for vehicles - and some other sectors, such as on quality watches as the face plate. Sapphire crystal can also be found in use in the iPhone 5, as the surface of the iSight camera lens.

It is super strong, being harder than any other natural material except for diamond, and can therefore take a huge amount of battering. You could easily leave your keys in your pocket with your phone, for example, and they shouldn't make any impression on the glass itself.

The reason it hasn't been used to cover a whole screen until now - bar on very high-end handsets from manufacturers such as Vertu and Gresso - is that it has been prohibitively expensive per unit for that amount of glass. But that's soon to change.

At present, a Gorilla Glass screen will cost roughly $3 per device, while a sapphire glass equivalent would set back a manufacturer $30 or more.

Some sapphire glass manufacturers, however, are predicting that prices for the technology will soon plummet to competitive values. GT Technologies claims we will soon see sapphire glass tech that could cost just three to four times a Gorilla Glass panel - $9 to $12 per unit. And those prices could fall further still.

We might then  see sapphire glass-fronted smartphones as early as this year.

Writing by Rik Henderson.