This is how Corning revolutionized the first iPhone

“We’re going to present one device that will revolutionize the Internet, another that will revolutionize communications, and another with music.” In fact, only one did, the same one that Time magazine called Invention of the Year: the iPhone. On January 9, 2007 it was shown that phones do not need a keyboard but a touch screen. A 3.5 inch screen where a series of cheerful icons explain the basic functions. Even a child could use it. That was the idea.

But the first iPhone also harbors a story about one of those “impossible challenges” being overcome, and with it a giant step forward in one of today’s most important technologies: that of protective glass. Today millions of tempered glass are sold as if nothing had happened, but just ten years ago they were something unusual. Especially since the first smartphones still mounted panels that were protected with a plastic film. One only has to compare the first BlackBerry Curve with the first iPhone, both from 2007: the change is abysmal.

“Don’t be afraid. You can do this”

Jobs and the first iPhone

Some people say that thinking about Steve Jobs is like thinking about Kendall Roy, a character from the popular Succession series who is characterized by her impossible plans, sus crazy initiatives that come into play at all costs, narrowly missing the original idea. With one caveat: in a matter of plans, Steve Jobs worked well.

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When the first concepts of the iPhone came to the table, Jobs knew that everything had to be perfect. PHe wanted the best possible screen for his brand new iPhone. The best. Within the team, they suggested speaking to Corning, a leader that gained considerable notoriety for developing the first chemically strengthened glass, Chemcor, in the 1960s. An invention that ended up being implanted in the windshield of racing cars or in microscopes for the optometric industry.

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But the experiments stalled for decades – you know what they say: Necessity creates the tool. Until the day Steve Jobs caught a flight to Corning, New York to meet with Wendell Weeks, the CEO of the ditto company. Jobs had a clear vision: a screen that resists pocket scratches, scratches from keys and coins, and always looks clean. And it had to be ready in six months.

After an initial meeting, Weeks told him about his secret Gorilla Glass project. Does that sound familiar to you? This is normal: more than half of all mobile phones and tablets worldwide use this technology. Lenovo, Xiaomi, Oppo, Asus, Huawei, Nokia, Samsung, Google, Sony… Major brands assemble Corning panels. But the first was Apple.

“Six months is not enough”

However, Weeks made it absolutely clear that six months was completely outside his filing window. This was an investigation that would take a long time. Jobs, softened and collected, replied on the phone, “Don’t worry. You can do this.” In fact, John Bayne, the department’s vice president, reiterated that this was an impossible challenge. His previous projects took about two years of research and development before they became products that hit the market.

In 2007 we were so eager to have the first iPhone that we played it through a website

Jobs, who didn’t take no for an answer, insisted, leaving a production number on the table.. We don’t know which one, but we can get an idea: the first iPhone sold its first million copies in just 5 days and would surpass 6 million copies. And in the end they made it.


Gorilla Glass is now synonymous with protection. A year after this meeting Corning introduced its second generation at CES 2008, 20% thinner. It seems that the pressure has done them good: with Gorilla they have reached their eighth generation and they are already on the second of Victus, the evolution of this project born in 2006 with a simple premise: you have six months to complete the to build best mobile screen.

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