October 8, 2014: Apple says it is “surprised” after GT Advanced Technologies, the supplier rumored to be manufacturing ultra-strong sapphire glass displays for the new iPhone 6, says it will file for bankruptcy.
The announcement appears to mark the end of the road for sapphire glass iPhone screens, a highly anticipated upgrade that promised to make devices more durable.
GT Advanced Technologies, the company that was supposed to make sapphire screens for the iPhone early this decade, has been charged with misleading investors by the SEC.
The SEC’s investigation found that GT and its CEO violated antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws as part of its deal to supply Apple with sapphire. After failing to meet certain performance requirements, GT caused “significant investor harm” by reclassifying over $300 million in debt to Apple. Sadly, the company’s punishment is pretty much just a slap on the wrist.
Apple is very secretive about its data centers. For good reason: They’re at risk from criminals, foreign spy agencies, terrorists and more. But the company gave a local newspaper a look inside its Arizona server farm.
This 1.3 million-square-foot facility in Mesa houses Apple’s global data command center.
We may not yet have sapphire glass on our iPhone screens, but Apple has been claiming to use the ultra-hard material for its iPhone camera lens since 2013’s iPhone 5s.
However, those claims are being called into question by a new durability test carried out by YouTuber JerryRigEverything, who compares the hardness of the iPhone 7 camera lens with the sapphire display of a Tissot sapphire watch — and finds that the iPhone camera lens scratches far more easily.
GT Advanced Technologies — a.k.a. the disastrous sapphire supplier which was hired by Apple to build iPhone displays, before collapsing into bankruptcy — has announced that it has reemerged from Chapter 11 as a newly-reorganized company with a “solid balance sheet,” and “renewed strategy focused on growth in the solar and sapphire industries.”
In the lead-up to the iPhone 6, everyone expected Apple to give it a sapphire glass display. Sapphire glass, it was said, would lead to nigh-indestructible screens: Scratched and shattered iPhone displays would become a thing of the past.
Of course, we all know what happened from there. Apple’s sapphire partner, GT Advanced Technologies, completely collapsed, and the iPhone 6 shipped with plain old Gorilla Glass. Yet even if it hadn’t, Apple might not have used sapphire glass, which was much more reflective and harder to read in ambient light than Gorilla Glass.
But here’s the key word: was. A new technology has emerged that might make sapphire glass every bit as good when it comes to viewability as Gorilla Glass.
GT Advanced Technologies’ attempts to make sapphire iPhone screens for Apple may have ended in disaster, but that’s not stopping GT senior execs from asking for millions to be paid out in bonuses.
Because the company filed for bankruptcy protection back in October, any bonus program needs to have the signature of a judge in order to be legally binding. GT is requesting a hearing in January, although it admits there is likely to be opposition.
The bonus program would cover 9 unidentified senior executives, and could add up to $2.275 million if all the necessary targets are hit. A second bonus proposal would pay a total of $1.4 million to an additional 28 people.
Corning’s relationship with Apple looked doomed earlier this year. Having manufactured the touchscreens for every iPhone since 2007, the Gorilla Glass bosses were all but sure they were being ditched in favor of synthetic sapphire crystal, set to be supplied by Apple’s hot new partner, GT Advanced Technologies.
But while Apple’s affair with GT has imploded spectacularly, Corning is back on Cupertino’s crush list after stepping in at the eleventh hour to create super-sized displays for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Now Corning is convinced its latest technological advance — Gorilla Glass 4, its toughest version yet — will banish sapphire suitors for the immediate future.
“Sapphire is a really, really nice material that’s very good for reducing scratches,” Dave Velasquez, Corning’s director of marketing and commercial ops, told Cult of Mac. “However, we feel very strongly that glass is the best material for touch panel cover glass. When you weigh up everything from cost to drop-testing, to the amount of energy that’s needed to make it, in our opinion Gorilla Glass is clearly the best material to use.”