First, let's back up: Foldable phones are a huge trend right now. But they're not really foldable. Devices like the Galaxy Fold and Huawei's Mate X use plastic polymers, which are flexible, but that also means those devices have huge creases running down the middle. We suspect Apple won't want to release an iPhone or iPad with such an obvious compromise. But, good news is, Corning could help.
A long-time supplier to Apple, Corning is known for making Gorilla Glass products and is synonymous with smartphone glass. It's currently developing foldable glass, which could be used in a future foldable iPhone. According to Wired, Corning is drawing on its experience with Willow Glass, which can roll up, and Gorilla Glass, which is super strong, to create ultra-thin, bendable glass.
This innovative glass is just 0.1mm thick and can bend to a 5mm radius. It's a crazy feat that is challenging the laws of physics:
"In a glass solution, you're really challenging the laws of physics, in that to get a very tight bend radius you want to go thinner and thinner, but you also have to be able to survive a drop event and resist damage," John Bayne, Corning general manager, told Wired.
"The back of the problem we're trying to break, the technical challenge, is, can you keep those tight 3- to 5-millimeter bend radii and also increase the damage resistance of the glass. That's the trajectory we're on."
Bayne told Wired it has glasses that it's "sampled to customers". They're "functional" but "not quite meeting all the requirements". He also said customers either want better performance against drops or a tighter bend radius. Right now, Corning can do one or the other. It aims to do both.
He thinks Corning's foldable glass will be ready in a couple of years. Currently, analysts think Apple will launch a foldable phone around 2020.