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Motorola has shatterproof screens, what’s everyone else’s excuse?

By Adam Doud November 14, 2015, 2:00 pm

Motorola raised the bar for smartphone OEMs when it released the Droid Turbo 2. A shatterproof screen on a smartphone. Sure, that “shatterproof” claim comes with a hefty disclaimer – “normal use” and all that – but still, the concept of a shatterproof screen it an intriguing one. I walk down the aisle of my train every morning, glancing left and right, and the number of shattered phones I come across is enough to make you cry. So, now that Motorola has released its shatterproof screen, it’s up to other OEMs to keep up with the trend.

droid-turbo-2-shatter

Or is it?

Because the shatterproofiness (not a word…yet) of the Droid Turbo comes at a bit of a cost. The top layer of its five layer system is what amounts to a plastic screen protector that is not so scratch resistant. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not necessarily a scratch magnet, but compared to something like Gorilla Glass 4, it’s not even close. So, I guess the question comes down to, would you rather be shatterproof or scratchproof? It’s not an easy question to answer. But I’m going to try, because that’s how I roll.

First of all, let’s dispel the notion that Gorilla Glass is 100% scratchproof. I have owned Gorilla Glass bearing smartphones and they have all scratched. Is that a function of my handling of them? Almost certainly. I am…not gentle with my phones, traditionally. I don’t use cases for them; the only time I did use a case, I ended up breaking the phone anyway. Now it is true that it takes a lot to scratch Gorilla Glass and by all reports it does not take a lot to scratch the Droid Turbo 2. So if we are positing that Gorilla Glass is not scratch proof (though admittedly not scratch prone), but the Droid Turbo is shatterproof under normal circumstances, it seems to me that the Droid Turbo wins. A scratch will not render a phone useless or dangerous to touch, whereas a cracked or shattered screen could.

Let’s more forward

So, if we assume all that is true, then we have to ask OEMs, “When are we going to see this for every phone?” Because under those circumstances, the Droid Turbo is far and away the team to beat in this race. All phones, save one, are vulnerable to shattering. From where I sit, that means that the Droid Turbo 2 is setting the standard by which other phones should be measured.

There is a lot of technology that goes into this shatterproof screen, and it’s not inaccessible tech. A rigid body structure, flexible screen, and what amounts to a screen protector on top are all that stand between OEMs and a shatter free lifestyle. So why wouldn’t other OEMs bring the sexy to their phones as well?

Well, let’s talk about those scratches. The top layer of the shatterproof screen is called the Shattershield Lens. Replacements can be bought from Motorola for around thirty dollars. You might be surprised at the price; thirty dollars doesn’t seem all that bad. But reports have indicated the reason this Shattershield lens is replaceable is because it can be very scratch prone. Gorilla Glass, though extremely scratch resistant is also relatively shatter prone, as is its Sapphire glass competition. Any glass that is going to be scratch resistant is also going to be shatter prone. That’s physics…or maybe geology…or some other science that probably involves a shop vac.

nexus-4-shattered

Scratchy flexibility

So in order to have a shatterproof screen, that top layer needs something flexible. But that flexibility comes with the weakness of being scratch prone. I actually wrote about something like this some time ago when thinking about LG’s scratch repair skins on its phones and adapting that to screen technology. I don’t know if that’s even possible but at the time we talked about scratch prone, but shatterproof screens. Yeah, I know. I rule.

But the prevailing attitude on screens seems to be that folks would rather have a scratch free phone that shatters because shatters are relatively few and far between, unless of course you happen to be married to me. Ahem. Scratches on the other hand, are much more common, but not as damaging to the actual phone. Which leaves us in a quandary.

Vote with your wallet

Now that a phone can have a shatterproof screen, will the general public accept the other side of that coin? I’m not sure sure they will. But Motorola is gambling that they will, and to be perfectly honest, anyone who has ever shattered their screen will be tempted when they read about it, or when they actually visit the Motorola store and take shatterproofing for a test drive.

Personally, I’d rather prevent catastrophic shattering at the risk of minor scratches. But what about you? Would you like to see all phones adopt this shatterproof philosophy and just buy a bunch of screen protectors? Or were you hoping we’d already cleared that hurdle and we’re strolling off into a Gorilla Glass future of scratch free shininess? Sound off below and let us know what you think, or even better, head to a Verizon store and vote with your wallet. The future, after all, is in the hands of the consumers.

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