A pair of tech heroes appeared this week that might change everything in the smartphone world: Motorola’s newest Droids, the Turbo 2, which the manufacturer says is designed with a shatterproof screen, and the Maxx 2. And if you’ve ever fallen victim to a broken screen, this is seriously great news. Though marvels of engineering have made them scratch- and bump-resistant, it seems some smartphone displays can hardly hold up to a few drops down a flight of stairs or simply setting one down wrong on a table. In fact, so common is the problem that entire cottage markets have been launched for screen replacement delivery services and, of course, the absurdly overpriced $35-plus screen protector market.
At a closed demonstration this past summer, jaws dropped when a Motorola rep held out a Turbo 2 at arm’s length and proceeded to drop it — directly onto a hard stone floor. He then did it again, tempting fate, and again the phone came out unscathed. To those in attendance it was as if The One had finally arrived. Motorola has clearly been hard at work in the lab, and a rep confirmed the screen is actually a high-tech, multi-layer composite, dubbed ShatterShield, that is indistinguishable from a normal display in terms of resolution and touch performance, yet is strong enough for Motorola to offer a four-year warranty on the Turbo 2 against breakage. (And if you buy before 2016, Motorola will even allow you to swap out after two years for no extra charge, a little bait to entice wary buyers.)
The search for the smash-proof screen is up there with extreme-life battery technology as holy grails that continue to evade device designers. Every year, a new entrant appears boasting of ever better, stronger glass, but there has yet to be a breakthrough as big as ShatterSheild. For instance, Apple was long rumored to be including a screen made of sapphire for the iPhone 6 last year, which would have resulted in an extremely clear and effectively scratch-proof display. But that never happened, as it proved too hard and expensive to achieve, allegedly 10 times the cost, and the company Apple bankrolled to build the screens ended up going bankrupt in the process.
For now, Verizon has scored the catbird’s seat, with an exclusive for the launch of both the Turbo 2 and its bigger brother, the Maxx 2, through 2015. Motorola says it will include ShatterShield in future models due next year, but likely not without competition: Corning, the preeminent maker of the Gorilla Glass screens found in most higher-end smartphones, is said to be working with sapphire for its upcoming fifth generation screens.