Samsung’s Strong Supply Chain

The Device-Maker Takes an Early Lead with Gorilla Glass 4

Corning glass image

On November 20, Corning officially announced the availability of its fourth generation of Gorilla Glass. At a thickness of 0.4 mm, Corning says that Gorilla Glass 4 is tougher than the previous version which was almost twice as thick. According to press releases from the company, Gorilla Glass 4 offers greater protection against scratches and drops onto rough surfaces. Corning says it has perfected the art of performing drop tests to ensure most common user scenarios have been covered, and Gorilla Glass 4 survived 80 percent of face-first falls onto abrasive and hard materials.

This sort of drop protection is likely to be a theme among device makers in 2015, a feature that has been more of a niche in the past. Many smartphones announced during the coming months will list Gorilla Glass 4, thinness and improved durability as major features. Of course, these devices won’t be drop proof, but they will offer more crack resistance than previous phones. To the average user and parent, this will be an attractive selling point. Thinner yet stronger will be a top New Year’s resolution among most smartphone makers.

Although the availability of Gorilla Glass 4 was announced only a few weeks back, Samsung already has products on the market using the material. Both the Galaxy Alpha and the Galaxy Note 4 include Gorilla Glass 4, and have been available for more than a month before Corning’s official unveiling of the material.

Samsung’s head start is not surprising given its partial ownership of Corning. In late 2013 Samsung traded in its interest in a joint venture called Samsung Corning Precision Materials to Corning in return for what amounted to 7.4 percent of the glass-maker. It’s very likely that Samsung’s in the know when it comes to Gorilla tactics.

Samsung’s vertical supply chain has long been one of the company’s key strengths. A partial ownership of or an interest in component suppliers is not unprecedented, but Samsung’s talent to fold its industry connections into product development is not something all large companies can do as smoothly. Samsung has internal and external advantages of scale. As barriers to entry have fallen in the smartphone industry and low-cost reference designs have enabled a paint-by-numbers approach to product creation, Samsung’s wise to mine its backyard for such early leads.