Fingerprint-scanning Gorilla Glass could eliminate iPhone’s Home button

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Say goodbye to the Home button as you know it.
Photo: Apple

We are one step closer to the end of Touch ID as we know it.

Following on from Apple’s recent patent filing concerning “finger biometric sensing pixels” for future iPhones, tech R&D company Sonovation has announced that it’s discovered a way of putting ultrasonic biometric sensors under Gorilla Glass — by bonding the sensors directly onto the display panel. Better yet, it works accurately even when fingers are wet, dirty, or oily.

New sapphire glass screens could be coming to the iPhone 6s

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Apple is gobbling up sapphire supplies at an alarming rate of knots. Photo: GT Advanced Technologies
New sapphire glass technology could make it as good as Gorilla Glass. Photo: GT Advanced Technologies

In the lead-up to the iPhone 6, everyone expected Apple to give it a sapphire glass display. Sapphire glass, it was said, would lead to nigh-indestructible screens: Scratched and shattered iPhone displays would become a thing of the past.

Of course, we all know what happened from there. Apple’s sapphire partner, GT Advanced Technologies, completely collapsed, and the iPhone 6 shipped with plain old Gorilla Glass. Yet even if it hadn’t, Apple might not have used sapphire glass, which was much more reflective and harder to read in ambient light than Gorilla Glass.

But here’s the key word: was. A new technology has emerged that might make sapphire glass every bit as good when it comes to viewability as Gorilla Glass.

How Corning won Apple back and built the strongest Gorilla Glass yet

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Corning's Gorilla Glass. Photo: Corning
Gorilla Glass is the go-to material for today's touchscreens. Photo: Corning

Corning’s relationship with Apple looked doomed earlier this year. Having manufactured the touchscreens for every iPhone since 2007, the Gorilla Glass bosses were all but sure they were being ditched in favor of synthetic sapphire crystal, set to be supplied by Apple’s hot new partner, GT Advanced Technologies.

But while Apple’s affair with GT has imploded spectacularly, Corning is back on Cupertino’s crush list after stepping in at the eleventh hour to create super-sized displays for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Now Corning is convinced its latest technological advance — Gorilla Glass 4, its toughest version yet — will banish sapphire suitors for the immediate future.

“Sapphire is a really, really nice material that’s very good for reducing scratches,” Dave Velasquez, Corning’s director of marketing and commercial ops, told Cult of Mac. “However, we feel very strongly that glass is the best material for touch panel cover glass. When you weigh up everything from cost to drop-testing, to the amount of energy that’s needed to make it, in our opinion Gorilla Glass is clearly the best material to use.”