Smartphone makers Apple and Samsung spend billions on research and development each year so that our smartphones and other connected devices continue to evolve into high-tech works of art. Recent reports claim Apple is working on an iPhone with touchless gesture control and/or a curved screen, while its main rival is working on the first foldable Samsung Galaxy X and a Samsung wearable that wraps around our wrists and can be configured into an upright position to be used like a smartphone. Bigger, better and thinner screens are a big part of all these efforts.
But one fundamental technology challenge that is surprisingly difficult to solve is glass. What consumers really want, after spending hundreds of dollars on a new smartphone, like the pricey iPhone, is glass that won't break when dropped. According to market research firm IDC, more than 95 million smartphones are damaged each year from drops, the No. 1 cause of harm to handheld devices (No. 2 is exposure to liquid). That's roughly $29.8 billion worth of smartphones.
"Proving that a device is durable is essential to convince people to pay more for a phone," said Francisco Jeronimo, senior research director for European mobile devices at IDC, which in 2016 surveyed phone makers, retailers and repair centers around the world about smartphone issues. "Consumers are a lot more concerned about what happens to their phone and it being able to handle certain accidents. When people spend $1,000 on a cellphone, they don't expect it to crack the first time they drop it on the floor."