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What is flexible ultra thin glass anyway?

☕ Good morning! Presidents’ Day means a quieter sort of Monday but there’s plenty of DGiT Daily to go around....

Z Flip fallout: What even is ultra-thin glass?

Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip has been a hit with early tech media, with my colleague Eric Zeman, after 24 hours with the device,  writing how was surprised he was by how much he liked it: “The phone is compact, approachable, and refreshingly different from anything I’ve used before.”

One cool thing about the second-generation of foldables from Samsung was the inclusion of what the company is billing as “ultra-thin glass”.

  • From Samsung.com: “Meet the first-ever folding glass screen on a Galaxy. Yeah, we said folding glass. Made of Samsung Ultra Thin Glass, it sets you up for an epic view with a smooth, flat screen.”
  • Which sounds great. The first Galaxy Fold suffered durability problems on its display as grit and grime easily worked its way under the plastic protection, before revisions mostly fixed that problem.
  • And over on the new Moto Razr, there are loads of problems with its display protected only by film. Input Mag’s Motorola Razr's display is already breaking and peeling at the fold - maybe because of fairly extreme temperature changes? In any case, yikes.

So the addition of glass to protect the precious OLED display electronics seemed like a win in the new Galaxy Z Flip, while plastics were used in addition to protect the glass from shattering, adding multiple layers of plastic-glass sandwich.

Then Zack Nelson’s JerryRigEverything’s durability test uploaded to YouTube on Sunday showed problems.

  • While the device held up to bends and flexes pretty well, the screen showed permanent scratches from fingernails.
  • That prompted Nelson to declare the phone as not having any glass at all, and further tests showed the display protection easily punctured, speculating that glass would have endured differently to his tests that broke pixels in a vertical line - see the video, or below:

But Samsung hasn’t backed down:

  • “Samsung’s first-of-its-kind UTG technology is different from other Galaxy flagship devices. While the display does bend, it should be handled with care,” Samsung wrote in an emailed statement to The Verge. “Also, Galaxy Z Flip has a protective layer on top of the UTG similar to Galaxy Fold.”
  • Adding to that statement were tweets from Display Supply Chain Consultants founder Ross Young, who noted: “It is ultra thin glass and there are multiple plastic films both above and below the UTG…”

What does it all mean?

  • It’s clear that we don’t really know what Samsung’s ultra-thin glass is doing exactly, nor how it should perform under heavy stress
  • It’s also clear that it is a long way from regular heavy-duty Gorilla Glass that we normally find on our smartphones.
  • The Z Flip has proven it is much sturdier than any foldable we’ve seen thus far, even if it didn’t hold up to puncture tests.
  • Expect to see some kind of proof and more detailed information from Samsung about the ultra-thin glass and what it does - and await more reviews from those who’ve had the device for longer.

Round Up:

💵 3 reasons you should (and shouldn’t) pre-order the Samsung Galaxy S20 (Android Authority).

🤷‍♂️ Instagram CEO explains why the company hasn’t developed an iPad app yet: “We’d like to build an iPad app, but we only have so many people and lots to do, and it hasn’t bubbled up as the next best thing to do yet” (9to5Mac).

🆓 Redbox debuts a free, ad-backed live TV service (Engadget).

🧊 That new Stranger Things 4 trailer has a huge spoiler (Ars Technica).

📺 HQ Trivia shut down overnight after the money abruptly ran out -- but before it disappeared, the drunken HQ Trivia finale was insane (TechCrunch).

🛬 Some short-haul and domestic airlines are ditching seatback inflight entertainment systems for streaming setups, but does anyone really want to watch airplane movies on a phone? (WSJ, $).

👂 Activate this ‘Bracelet of Silence,’ and Alexa can’t eavesdrop (NY Times).

🌳 The dangerous seduction of solving everything with a trillion trees (Earther).

🏥 FDA clears ‘world’s first’ portable, low-cost MRI following positive clinical research - (healthimaging.com, plus interesting discussion on HackerNews).

New image shows Betelgeuse isn’t dimming evenly (Ars Technica).

🚽 Butt tech review: Coway Bidetmega 400 - “this bidet is the best thing you didn't know you needed” (Wired).

🚗 The Wall Street Journal remembers how five years ago, Uber's co-founder "was so confident that Uber's rides would prompt people to leave their cars at home that he told a tech conference: 'If every car in San Francisco was Ubered there would be no traffic.'" He was wrong (Morningstar/WSJ). (Shout out to Halo-enjoying doctor friend who often reminds us “If you're in traffic you are traffic.”)

🧬 There could soon be a test to detect cancer years in advance. Would you take it? (The Guardian).

🚀 A Falcon 9, carrying 60 Starlink satellites will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at approximately 10:05 a.m. ET (7:05 a.m. PT) today (YouTube).

😷 “To what extent do animals experience minor diseases like ‘the common cold’ or even other symptoms like fevers?” (r/askscience).

Monday Meme

This one tickled me:

  • Here’s more on NASA engineer Lonnie Johnson and his invention from 1989, his successful lawsuit against Hasbro in 2013, and the Johnson Thermo-Electrochemical Converter System.


Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor.

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Newsletter Archive

What is flexible ultra thin glass anyway?

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Way too hot to simmer down
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