Want a Customized Smartphone Back Cover? Corning Is On It

Corning Inkjet Coverings 2

The back covers of smartphones are usually pretty bare and boring, but Corning has a solution: printing photorealistic images on its widely used, scratch-resistant glass.

Want a smartphone cover that looks like snakeskin? Or how about wood or marble? Through the company’s special inkjet technology, vendors can manufacture built-in back covers for their smartphones to contain whatever artistic design they wish.

Corning may be best known for creating the protective glass on your smartphone’s front display. But the company also sees an opportunity to innovate on the phone’s rear

Corning Inkjet Coverings

On Wednesday, Corning showed journalists at its Sunnyvale, California, office what some of these covers might look like. Interestingly, the inkjet technology can also be used to create texture on the glass, so a wood-like cover will actually feel like wood. In addition, the covers won’t interfere with a smartphone’s wireless charging or cellular networking.

Corning actually debuted the technology in 2016 and it’s already used in some laptops. Lenovo, for instance, featured it in special edition Star Wars edition notebooks. But now the company has its sights on getting smartphone vendors on board.

Corning Inkjet Coverings 3

“We have sampled [the inkjet coverings] with smartphone makers and they’re also considering it,” Corning VP John Bayne said in a Q&A with journalists.

When might we see the customized back covers on real phones? According to Bayne, vendors are still figuring out the business model surrounding customized covers. One problem is that limited-edition products with special designs don’t necessarily appeal to everyone, creating unsold inventory for vendors.

Vendors “haven’t quite figured out the supply chain economics,” Bayne added. “Certainly we have the technology to support it, but I can’t put a timeframe on it.”

However, he envisions a future where consumers can personalize their phones when they buy a new device. He noted that people already like to customize the digital background and lock screen to their phones. “Why wouldn’t you want to personalize the back of your phone?” he asked.

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