Sapphire Stories November 3, 2015

gtat

More than a year ago, Apple’s sapphire supplier GT Advanced Tech announced that it was filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 11, with the company parting ways with Apple as part of the restructuring. Despite the parting being amicable, GT still was in debt $439 million. Today, however, The Wall Street Journal reports that GT and Apple have come to an agreement on how to pay off that debt.

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Sapphire Stories August 31, 2015

Former Apple sapphire supplier GT Advanced to cut 40% of workforce as restructuring continues

Nearly a year ago, Apple’s sapphire supplier GT Advanced Tech announced that it was filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 11, with the company parting ways with Apple as part of the restructuring. Today, The Wall Street Journal reports that GT Advanced Tech will be reducing its workforce by another 40 percent in an effort to further cut costs.

Sapphire Stories July 17, 2015

Apple Watch screen cracked

Yep, that’s a cracked Apple Watch display. Nope, it’s not actually an Edition, just plated, but the $549 and up steel model uses the same sapphire display as Apple’s $10,000 and up watch. And yes, the Apple Watch’s sapphire display reacts to accidental drops against hard surfaces just like iPhones.

In describing the craftsmanship of the Apple Watch, Apple calls sapphire “the second-hardest transparent substance after diamond,” adding that “that’s why we chose it to cover the Apple Watch and Apple Watch Edition faces,” but it still sells a $79 AppleCare+ warranty to cover accidental damage because sapphire is clearly not invincible.

Here’s what to expect if you accidentally break your Apple Watch display and what I learned about how easily it can happen… expand full story

Sapphire Stories June 29, 2015

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Apple Watch Sport’s Ion-X Glass display (left) vs Apple Watch w/ Sapphire display (right)

DisplayMate is out with a new report today, this time applying its usual detailed analysis to the different displays that come with the various models of Apple Watch. In case you didn’t know already, Apple is using a sapphire display on its pricier, mid-range collection of Apple Watch, as well as with the higher-end Apple Watch Edition. That’s opposed to the Ion-X glass display on the less expensive, entry-level Apple Watch Sport models. But the report shows a detailed analysis of what many users have already noticed: despite sapphire being more scratch resistant, in many cases the cheaper glass display performs better in terms of screen reflectance and visibility in outdoor lighting: expand full story

Sapphire Stories May 6, 2015

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We got an early indication that Consumer Reports were impressed with the Apple Watch when they were unable to scratch the sapphire screen of the stainless steel model. The well-respected non-profit has now revealed that the full set of lab tests are complete, and the Apple Watch ranked top out of the 11 smartwatches tested.

Consumer reports tested the watches for durability, water-resistance, health functionality, readability in bright and low light, ease of use, and ease of interaction – though there was one slightly worrying moment for the Apple Watch Sport …  expand full story

Sapphire Stories April 27, 2015

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There’s certainly a benefit to Apple’s use of sapphire crystal on Apple Watch. It’s extremely scratch resistant (even though stainless steel may not be) and will hold up over time, but how does it compare to sapphire crystal used in traditional watches? In a new video published by Unbox Therapy, Apple Watch was put up against a Tissot watch to see if Apple’s standards for sapphire crystal match up with traditional watchmakers….

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Sapphire Stories April 26, 2015

I can’t remember if we’re still mad at Consumer Reports for Antennagate but they seem to be doing a thorough job at testing the Apple Watch as evidenced in the video below. Notable from their Day 1 tests is that the Apple Watch Sport screen does scratch but only after going pretty far down the Moh’s hardness scale (7-rated) into the unlikely to ever happen category.

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The Sapphire Apple Watch however wouldn’t scratch under any circumstances, though it doesn’t appear that Consumer Reports had a diamond pick to test it against. Regardless, for intents and purposes, you likely will never see a scratch on the face of the Apple Watch (the back is a different matter)… expand full story

Sapphire Stories April 21, 2015

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If you’re still having trouble deciding between the Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport, there’s a new video that may make it a bit easier. Not too long ago, a video was released that tested the scratch resistance of the Apple Watch’s sapphire glass panel, but today the Ion-X glass found on the Sport model gets put through the same treatment. Will it hold up against the torture?

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Sapphire Stories February 6, 2015

Corning claims upcoming ‘Project Phire’ glass is nearly as scratch-resistant as sapphire

Corning announced today that it is preparing to ship a new type of glass that can withstand scratches almost as well as sapphire while providing superior drop protection. The glass is the result of “Project Phire,” which aimed to create a more scratch-resistant glass to rival sapphire.

The announcement comes shortly after the company debuted Gorilla Glass 4, which is expected to be included on many new smartphone models this year. However, Project Phire could give even Gorilla Glass a run for its money, if it can live up to Corning’s claims.

Sapphire Stories February 2, 2015

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Following the October surprise bankruptcy filed by GT Advanced Technologies—a key sapphire supplier for the iPhone—Apple today announced plans to invest $2 billion over the next 30 years in the failed plant. The Mesa, Arizona-located plant will become the central command center for its various data centers around the globe.

“We’re proud to continue investing in the U.S. with a new data center in Arizona, which will serve as a command center for our global networks,” Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman for Cupertino, California-based Apple, wrote in an e-mailed statement on Monday. “This multibillion-dollar project is one of the largest investments we’ve ever made.”

Shortly after the bankruptcy announcement from GT Advanced Technologies, Apple described the decision as surprising while adding that the company would focus on job preservation. expand full story

Sapphire Stories January 6, 2015

watch

Apple is finishing up work on the Apple Watch’s software, and sources familiar with the product’s development say that the device is currently on track to ship in the United States by the end of March. Apple previously said that the wearable product will ship in “early 2015,” while Senior Vice President of Retail Angela Ahrendts got a bit more specific by telling employees that the launch will occur in the “spring,” after the Chinese New Year…

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Sapphire Stories December 15, 2014

New settlement in GT Advanced bankruptcy case gives supplier more time to sell equipment

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Apple and GT Advanced Technologies have reached a settlement in their ongoing bankruptcy case. The settlement, which was approved by the courts earlier today, gives the sapphire supplier up to four years to sell its current stock of sapphire production equipment in order to repay Apple.

The two companies previously went head-to-head over who should be considered responsible for the complete failure of the partnership, with GT blaming Apple for making demands the company couldn’t meet while blocking any other contracts GT may have wanted to accept. Apple, on the other hand, blames GT for accepting a contract and then failing to provide the agreed-upon product.

Sapphire Stories December 11, 2014

Watch: Behind the scenes look at Corning’s Gorilla Glass testing facility

The team at uBreakiFix was recently invited to Corning’s Gorilla Glass testing facility in Corning, New York for an inside look at the science behind the ultra-durable glass found on iPhones, iPads and several other smartphones and tablets. The five-minute spot goes behind the scenes at Corning’s strength testing lab to show how durable Gorilla Glass is under stress and bending tests.

Sapphire Stories November 25, 2014

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As Apple and would-be sapphire supplier GT Advanced Technologies come closer to a settlement following the latter’s recent bankruptcy announcement, GT’s creditors will get to take a look under the wraps of the secretive Cupertino tech giant.

As noted earlier today by the Wall Street Journal, Apple will provide GT’s creditors with documents regarding the companies’ arrangement in response to inquiries attempting to determine whether the proposed settlement is fair, or whether Apple is trying to take advantage of the situation.

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Sapphire Stories November 20, 2014

gorilla-glass-4

The GTAT mess may have forced Apple to abandon its presumed plans to replace iPhone Gorilla Glass screens with sapphire, but next year’s iPhone displays could still prove up to twice as shatter-resistant, says glass-maker Corning.

Corning said that studying hundreds of broken phone screens had revealed the unsurprising fact that shattered screens most commonly occurred in a one-meter drop onto a rough surface like concrete or asphalt. Drop tests in these conditions found that Gorilla Glass 4 survived up to 80% of such impacts – twice the record of the Gorilla Glass 3 used in current iPhones.

While there was much scientific testing behind the scenes, the videos the company used to illustrate the improved strength were rather less scientific in nature …

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Sapphire Stories November 19, 2014

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Photo via WSJ

The Wall Street Journal has revealed key details of the failed deal between Apple and sapphire supplier GT Advanced Technologies that show why the agreement collapsed and how GT managed to run itself into bankruptcy while trying to meet Apple’s standards.

A previous report from the Journal revealed that GTAT had been unable to provide the iPhone 6 displays it had promised Apple, but now we have even more information on why that demand was so hard to meet.

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Sapphire Stories October 29, 2014

Mesa-Arizona

While lawyers for bankrupt sapphire supplier GT Advanced confirmed previously that it had reached an agreement to repay Apple approximately $439 million, many details regarding what exactly went wrong in the partnership had not been disclosed publicly. Today we get what might be the clearest explanation yet of what happened between the two companies leading up to GTAT filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month.  In a declaration filed by COO of GT Advanced Daniel Squiller with the courts yesterday (via Fortune), the company outlines previously sealed info regarding its deal with Apple and terms of the deal that lead to GT’s bankruptcy filing.

When GTAT initially entered into negotiations to sell sapphire furnaces to Apple, it had no sense that, having borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for the components of more than 2,036 sapphire furnaces, it would end up being unable to meet its cost and production targets for reasons that it believes were beyond its control as well as unforeseen difficulties in scaling its technology to 262kg boules to meet evolving product specifications.

While noting that the deal was “an ambitious transaction for the production of sapphire in quantities, size and quality never before achieved,” the document reveals a number of strict terms Apple imposed in the deal that the company describes as limiting its ability to achieve Apple’s requirements for sapphire production. Here’s a few of the more interesting bits: expand full story

Sapphire Stories October 23, 2014

Mesa-Arizona

Following news this week that Apple had reached at a settlement with bankrupt sapphire manufacturer GT Advanced, today the company has responded to the situation in a comment to Recode. While GT previously said it would wind down sapphire production operations at its Mesa, Arizona plant and sell furnaces to repay the $439M owed to Apple, today Apple hinted it might have its own plans for the facility. expand full story

As expected, Apple’s clean break from GT Advanced is now official

Apple’s clean-break settlement with GT Advanced is now official, two days after lawyers for the bankrupt sapphire manufacturer reported that agreement had been reached. In a press release, the company said that the company was being given up to four years interest-free to repay the $439M owed to Apple.

GT will be released from all exclusivity obligations under its various agreements with Apple. GT will retain ownership of all production, ancillary and inventory assets located in Mesa and Apple is provided with a mechanism for recovering its $439 million pre-payment made to GT over a period of up to four years without interest, solely from a portion of the proceeds from ASF® sales. The agreement provides for a mutual release of any and all claims by both parties. As a result of the agreed upon terms, GT retains control of its intellectual property and will be able to sell its sapphire growth and fabrication technology, including ASF and Hyperion™, without restrictions.

The company is exiting the sapphire production business and will repay Apple from the proceeds of selling its furnaces, the four-year timeframe likely agreed in order to allow GT Advanced to achieve the best price.

GTAT said that it will continue “technical exchange” with Apple to help develop future production processes, but will limit its future involvement in sapphire to making production equipment for other companies.

Sapphire Stories October 16, 2014

Mesa-Arizona

 

Apple’s bankrupt former sapphire supplier is seeking to shut down its Mesa, Arizona plant and has informed 727 employees that they will be laid off between today and December 15th, according to AZ Central. The breakdown of the jobs being cut includes:

…524 production workers, 108 technical positions, 70 management jobs and 25 administrative jobs, according to the notice signed by Linda Luman, vice president of human resources for GT.

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Sapphire Stories October 13, 2014

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Not much is known about Apple’s deals with its suppliers, but court filings by former sapphire supplier GT Advanced reveal that the contract included a $50M penalty for any leak of Apple product information, reports the Financial Times.

While the amount of the penalty clause may vary according to the size of the supplier, it seems likely that a substantial leak penalty is a standard condition of supplying product components to Apple – though the number of leaks over the iPhone 6 suggests that such penalties offer limited protection.

Contracts between Apple and its suppliers will undoubtedly be subject to strict non-disclosure agreements, but lawyers for GT Advanced are asking the court to allow details to be made public …  expand full story

Sapphire Stories October 10, 2014

GT Advanced closed court hearing was to seek permission to close the sapphire plant

The motion GT Advanced filed earlier for a closed hearing was to seek court permission to close its sapphire manufacturing plant, reports Re/code.

Sapphire crystal maker GT Advanced Technologies, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this week, has asked the court’s permission to “wind down” operations at its manufacturing plant, less than a year after announcing a high-profile deal to supply the material to Apple.

As we noted earlier, the reason for the company’s failure appears to be that it was unable to meet Apple’s requirements for sapphire displays for the iPhone 6, though it remains unclear whether this was a quality issue or an inability to supply the volumes needed.

The court will hear the company’s motion on 15th October.

KGI stated earlier this week that the bankruptcy of GT Advanced is unlikely to have any impact on the Apple Watch as there are other suppliers able to provide sapphire screens in the sizes needed, but it may be that Apple will rethink its plans to use sapphire for future iPhones.

Image credit: azcentral.com

Sapphire Stories October 9, 2014

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The Wall Street Journal has published new information about the breakdown of a deal between Apple and GT Advanced Technologies Inc. that led the latter to file for bankruptcy earlier this week. As was previously noted, Apple withheld a $139 million payment from the sapphire supplier, though the exact reasoning was unclear.

In a research note released yesterday, KGI confirmed that GTAT was Apple’s first choice for these displays because the company had created a process that provided superior drop test results. Now the Journal reports that the payment was withheld after GT Advanced failed to meet Apple’s requirements for the iPhone 6 display.

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Sapphire Stories October 8, 2014

tim cook death stare

Apple has now officially commented on the startling announcement that sapphire supplier GTAT will file for bankruptcy. Like most observers, Apple was “surprised” by the move. Apple told the Wall Street Journal:

In its first comments since GT’s Chapter 11 filing Monday, Apple said, “We are focused on preserving jobs in Arizona following GT’s surprising decision and we will continue to work with state and local officials as we consider our next steps.”

Wall Street Journal sources indicate that GTAT was forced into financial distress because Apple withheld the final tranche payment of its contract, totally $139 million. Apparently, the sapphire supplier did not meet the agreed terms so Apple exerted its contractual right to withdraw. From the statement, it seems that Apple did not expect the consequential ramification of bankruptcy, however.

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