Apple Invested $250 Million In Corning To Future iPhone Glass Research

Anita - Sep 21, 2019


Apple Invested $250 Million In Corning To Future iPhone Glass Research

Apple Inc has said that it would offer Corning Inc $250 million from a $5 billion fund to boost glass research for iPhones in the future.

Apple is about to invest a large amount of money in Corning to accelerate the development of protective glass for iPhones.

The tech giant said on September 17 that it will give Corning $250 million from the Advanced Manufacturing Fund after investing $200 million two years ago. The money will be used for Corning's development of glass screens for iPhones, Apple Watch and iPads, including "state-of-the-art glass processes, equipment and materials integral to the delivery of next-generation consumer devices," said Apple.

The latest iPhone models including the $699 iPhone 11, the $999 iPhone 11 Pro and the $1,099 iPhone 11 Pro Max use Corning's protective glass, which Apple advertises as "the toughest glass ever in a smartphone." New iPhone models will be sold at retail stores on September 20.

Apple Iphone 11 1 2 15687271211821135509993

Corning's Gorilla Glass business director, John Bayne said in an interview before the fund's announcement that the $250 million investment would allow Corning to put more commitment into the production of protective glass.

"We work very closely with Apple to understand what they're doing with products in the future ... and how we can support that," Bayne said. "This takes it to another level."

In terms of consumers, Corning seems to be best known for the Pyrex glassware used in the kitchen. However, it is also a big supplier of glass screens for phones, TVs and other electronics. Smartphones from Apple and Samsung feature the latest technologies of Corning, and since the first launch of Gorilla Glass in 2007, more than 7 billion devices have debuted in the market with it.

Apple-Corning partnership

Apple has taken advantaged of Corning's glass since its first iPhone. While Apple does not reveal which type of glass it is using, experts said that its devices could have glass custom-made by Corning. In a press release about the investment, the company said "the newest iPhone models feature the toughest glass ever in a smartphone, as well as a back machined from a single piece of glass that allows for wireless charging."

Bayne also declined to offer details about the type of glass used on iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, or compare it to Gorilla Glass 6 on phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 10. But he said the investment of Apple from 2017 allowed Corning to "develop advanced manufacturing processes specific for Apple. ... This investment and glass is specific to Apple."

Apple Corning Harrodsburg Plant 400 Highly Skilled

Apple's Advanced Manufacturing Fund is a company's commitment to investing billions of dollars in U.S. companies to boost production and create new jobs. Apple has spent the first $1 billion as promised and has invested 20% of the additional $5 billion fund. Corning became the first company to receive funding in 2017, and Apple pledged $390 million to invest in laser chip manufacturer Finisar and $10 million to aluminum manufacturer Elysis.

The investment in Corning is made in the context that Apple and other companies are facing criticism from President Trump when manufacturing products abroad. Although Apple designs devices in Cupertino, California, it assembles gadgets such as iPhones in China. Taxes on devices made in China comprising of iPhones will begin to take effect later this year.

Apple on September 17 said it spent $60 billion with 9,000 American suppliers last year, which supports 450,000 jobs across all 50 states and manufacturing places in 36 states. It said "every one of the company's core products -- from the iPhone and iPad to the Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV -- contains parts or materials from the US or is made with equipment from US-based suppliers." The glass of Corning used in iPhones is made in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

Apple Iphone 11 Pro Hands On

Bayne declined to say what kind of new Corning glass it will develop for Apple, but said that its focus on 4 key areas has remained unchanged over the years: making glass more drop-proof and scratch-resistant, enhancing optical properties and reducing the price.

When the tech giant produced its first iPhone, it used plastic until it realized that plastic is extremely easy to scratch.

"When Steve Jobs took the first iPhone out of his pocket a couple days after announcing it, it was scratched," said Bayne. That led the company to Corning to make glass and equip it for phones sold six months later.

In addition to continuing to focus on scratch resistance, drop resistance, optical clarity and price, Corning is currently working on a type of glass that does not show fingerprints, is able to bend for flexible smartphones and will not be broken when dropped.

While Bayne did not say when Corning's glass will become break-proof, Bayne predicted that in the next 1 to 2 years, its glass will be used on foldable phones. The initial models from companies such as Samsung and Huawei still use plastic displays, which have problems with wireless charging, scratches, and others.

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