Foldable phones arrived in a big way over the last month, but there's a fundamental problem that they haven't quite figured out. The buzzworthy phones introduced at Samsung's Unpacked and MWC aren't truly foldable; they're bendable. The good news is Corning, the company behind Gorilla Glass, is hurrying to come up with a solution.
As we reported a couple weeks ago, one glaring issue with the Galaxy Fold is that it doesn't fold flat. Instead, when it's closed, there's a noticeable gap at the hinge. That's because we don't have truly foldable glass. Instead, the Galaxy Fold and Huawei's Mate X use plastic polymers, which can flex repeatedly but are also prone to scratching and creases.
So it makes sense that Gorilla Glass, the company that's become synonymous with smartphone glass, is working to close the gap. According to Wired, Corning is in the process of developing ultrathin, bendable glass that's 0.1 millimeters thick and can bend to a 5 millimeter radius, without sacrificing strength and durability. The catch is that those contradictory aims go against the basic principles 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 of Corning's Gorilla Glass told Wired.
While Corning hasn't made any official announcements about this work, sources close to the company told Wired that the new glass could be ready in a couple years -- or that competitors like Japan's AGC might have a similar product even sooner. With any luck, the price of foldable smartphones will come down as the glass technology rises, and in a few years, we'll have truly foldable, truly affordable devices in our pockets.