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iPhone 12's display is protected by 'ceramic shield' glass

During Tuesday's event, Apple touts the glass-ceramic front cover on the 5G iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max.

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Apple; screenshot by Sarah Tew/CNET
This story is part of Apple Event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple headquarters.

Apple revealed its redesigned, 5G-capable iPhone 12, along with its Mini variant and Pro models, during Tuesday's event, and the company highlighted the "ceramic shield" protection on the gadgets. It's basically Apple's equivalent to the Gorilla Glass Victus used by Samsung.

Read more: iPhone 12 drop test result are in: Ceramic shield is as tough as it sounds

It's "tougher than any smartphone glass," according to Apple, and "makes iPhone more durable than ever," with four times better drop performance -- aka, it's less likely to crack if (when) you drop it.

The glass-ceramic material was created by Corning, in collaboration with Apple, and consists of nano ceramic crystals embedded in the glass matrix. It's highly transparent, Corning said in an email to CNET, and the tough structure formed by the crystals means it's less likely to break.

"Corning's new material is the world's first transparent and color-free glass-ceramic, which provides optical performance suitable for use as a cover material for smartphones," a spokesperson said in a statement. "The ideal cover material for a smartphone is highly transparent, resists flaws, and retains its strength so it doesn't break if damage does occur. We invented a new-to-the-world material -- a glass-ceramic -- that combines the best properties of both ceramics and glass to deliver unparalleled performance on smartphones."

The flagship iPhone 12, which is smaller, thinner and lighter than the iPhone 11, will retail for $799, and the iPhone 12 Mini will cost $699. However, the ceramic shield seems most important on the $999 iPhone 12 Pro and the $1,099 iPhone Pro Max, which Apple pushed as ideal phones for photographers.

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro will be available for preorder Oct. 16, to ship Oct. 23. The iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max can be preordered from Nov. 6, and will ship from Nov.13.

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Correction, 11:36 a.m. PT: Gorilla Glass Victus is a strengthened alumino-silicate glass, while Corning's Ceramic Shield is a glass-ceramic.