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Wearable Tech

Corning wants to put its Gorilla Glass on your next smartwatch

The glassmaker revealed Gorilla Glass SR+, a new super scratch-resistant material made specially for smartwatches.

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The Samsung Gear S3, which uses Corning's Gorilla Glass SR on its display.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Corning has developed a new form of its Gorilla Glass that's both super tough and super scratch resistant.

But this new display glass, called Gorilla Glass SR+, won't be coming to Gorilla's stronghold in phones: It's coming to smartwatches.

The first product announced that uses Gorilla Glass SR+ is the Samsung Gear S3 smartwatch, which was unveiled Wednesday, just after the new glass was revealed.

Corning is also in discussions with traditional watchmakers about the material, Scott Forester, director of innovation products for Gorilla Glass, said Tuesday.

Corning has been working to bring Gorilla Glass, which is used for just about every major smartphone, into new markets, such as automotive and homes. Gorilla Glass SR+, short for "scratch resistant," represents an opportunity by trying to capture a bigger slice of the smartwatch, wearable and classic wristwatch markets.

Corning already has its Gorilla Glass in Samsung Gear smartwatches and a cheaper version of the Apple Watch. But, its interest in expanding into luxury watches may be limited, since those products typically use displays made of sapphire, known for its legendary durability. Corning hopes the new material's potentially lower price, toughness and scratch resistance -- which the company said approaches that of sapphire -- could entice watchmakers.

The new form of Gorilla Glass is the first commercial product that's come out of Corning's years-long development project, dubbed Project Phire. The project endeavors to combine Gorilla Glass' ability to survive repeated drops with the scratch resistance of rival display materials, most notably sapphire. Apple drew significant attention to sapphire as a display product when it teamed up with a sapphire maker in 2013 to grow the material at a massive scale, supposedly to create iPhone display covers.

That effort failed, but pushed Corning, which has made the iPhone display cover since the phone was introduced in 2007, to add more scratch resistance into Gorilla.

As far as the future of Project Phire, Forester said, "We're going to continue to evolve this technology over time." He added that Corning is talking to smartphone makers on their needs for such a material. For smartphones, the ability to sustain drops is the most important, he said, while smartwatches need superior scratch resistance. That's a big reason why Corning started offering SR+ as a glass for watches.

The unveiling of Gorilla Glass SR+ comes just over a month after Corning revealed Gorilla Glass 5, its latest glass for smartphone and laptop displays. The updated glass can survive drops from even higher, up to 1.6 meters (5 feet, 2 inches), than its predecessor.

First published August 30, 2:30 p.m. PT.
Update, August 31 at 11:43 a.m. PT: Adds information on the Samsung Gear S3, the first device to use the new glass.

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