GT Advanced Technologies, the company supplying Apple with sapphire for the Apple Watch, has announced the partnership between the two companies is over. Less than a year old, the deal drove GT Advanced to bankruptcy after the company didn’t stick to the agreed timelines for sapphire production and Apple had to abandon its plans for sapphire-protected iPhones and hold back a payment of $139 million.
The latest deal between the two company makes GT Advanced shut down its factories in Mesa, Arizona and Salem, Massachusetts. The company will sell its sapphire furnaces and try to repay the $439 million that Apple gave it in advance. As a result of the shutdown, approximately 650 Mesa employees have been laid off.
An Apple spokeswoman had this comment to add: “Apple put a lot of effort into an ambitious new sapphire manufacturing process with GTAT which is not ready for production. We’re going to continue evaluating GTAT’s progress on larger sapphire boule development, as well as consider other options for the facility. We remain committed to the city and we’re going to work with Mesa and Maricopa County to help the GT Advanced employees who will be impacted by this find new jobs.”
This may or may not have an impact on the Apple Watch launch scheduled to happen “early next year”, but it certainly makes sapphire screen iPhones (or any non-Vertu phones really) unlikely for at least a couple of more years.