Apple's sapphire curse strikes again as glass material manufacturer sues over breach of co...

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Years after a disastrous first foray into sapphire production, Apple's troubles with the super hard glass, or more precisely its manufacturers, continue, as the company on Monday was saddled with a lawsuit from material producer Hebei Hengbo Fine Ceramic Material claiming breach of contract.


Hebei Hengbo's heavily redacted lawsuit.


While Hengbo's filing with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California is highly redacted, the Chinese firm demands a jury trial for an apparent falling out between Apple over terms of a contract for high purity alumina melt stock, a material used to produce sapphire glass.

In what little can be gleaned from Hengbo's complaint, the materials maker seeks to revoke a current Apple contract and collect damages from the tech giant for an undisclosed breach of contract. If the court determines such action is not possible, Hengbo asks Apple adhere to the original contract.

Though exact figures go unmentioned, the contract amount or expected damages is worth more than $75,000, the statutory threshold for civil cases to be heard by a U.S. federal court. The second requirement for jurisdiction, technically diversity jurisdiction, is that both parties must be from different states or countries.

Today's complaint underscores Apple's hard road toward integrating sapphire glass into its mobile products.

In 2013, Apple inked a $578 million deal with GT Advanced Technologies to build out a huge sapphire manufacturing facility in Mesa, Ariz. Terms of the arrangement had GTAT sink some $900 million into the project, $439 million of which came from an advance from Apple.

The partnership followed months of rumors suggesting Apple was looking to integrate sapphire glass into mobile hardware like iPhone and iPad.

That plan imploded in 2014 when GTAT abruptly filed for bankruptcy, a move Apple at the time framed as "surprising." In bankruptcy court filings, GTAT called Apple's contract unsustainable, labeling its demands as "oppressive and burdensome."

For its part, Apple said it attempted to help GTAT meet contractual obligations prior to the firm's bankruptcy announcement, but ongoing problems with sapphire yields and poor management ultimately doomed the undertaking.

Apple reached an agreement to settle GTAT's $439 million in outstanding debt in late 2014.

Currently, Apple's use of sapphire is limited to certain Apple Watch screens, Touch ID fingerprint sensors and protective covers for iPhone's rear-facing cameras.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 11
    I would bet that this lawsuit speaks to Apple‘s shift to FaceID for all future iPhones, as the volume of sapphire would be a fraction of what it is today. 
  • Reply 2 of 11
    The amount requested seems laughable. To summon Apple’s lawyer alone might cause way more.
  • Reply 3 of 11
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,755member
    viclauyyc said:
    The amount requested seems laughable. To summon Apple’s lawyer alone might cause way more.
    The amount of damages requested hasn't been revealed (yet). All we know is it's "more than 75K". Re-read the article and you'll see the explanation. 
    edited January 2018 baconstangmuthuk_vanalingam[Deleted User]
  • Reply 4 of 11
    it’s probably a valid case, but when i learn about these things what comes to mind is always the idea that everyone wants apple’s money.
    magman19792old4funracerhomie3SpamSandwichjbdragonnetmage
  • Reply 5 of 11
    ksecksec Posts: 1,565member
    2013 and 2014?

    I have to wonder if Face ID was born and make default when Apple realize they cant have Sapphire for their Display, making Touch ID on display more susceptible to scratches if it is on normal glass. 
  • Reply 6 of 11
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,310member
    ksec said:
    making Touch ID on display more susceptible to scratches if it is on normal glass.  
    I was in an Apple store last Thursday to take a look at the iPhone X. Beauty! But in scrolling through various screens and website pages, I noticed that the screen had several very light, faint scratches. I have no idea what might have inflicted them.

    Thinking it might be an anomaly, I checked all the iPhone Xs on display and saw the same thing. Whether it's the way Apple cleaned the phones or customers handling them carelessly, I came away with the feeling that the screen was too soft. It's not possible to know if it is without seeing how the phones have been treated.

    The scratches are very fine, only being visible when the phone is held at an odd angle and showing a dark/black screen. It purely a subjective thing. A great many users won't ever notice unless this gets really bad. If I get a X, it'll get a screen protector. My 5s' display is much older and is still pristine, even after using it without a protector for the first year of ownership.
    hammeroftruth
  • Reply 7 of 11
    LatkoLatko Posts: 398member
    it’s probably a valid case, but when i learn about these things what comes to mind is always the idea that everyone wants apple’s money.
    as it is supposed to be the other way around (...)
    edited January 2018
  • Reply 8 of 11
    What Apple wound up using is not even true sapphire. But a mixture of sapphire and other (weaker) materials.
  • Reply 9 of 11
    jdb8167jdb8167 Posts: 140member
    What Apple wound up using is not even true sapphire. But a mixture of sapphire and other (weaker) materials.
    Citation? I’ve never heard this. 
  • Reply 10 of 11
    zimmiezimmie Posts: 241member
    macgui said:
    ksec said:
    making Touch ID on display more susceptible to scratches if it is on normal glass.  
    I was in an Apple store last Thursday to take a look at the iPhone X. Beauty! But in scrolling through various screens and website pages, I noticed that the screen had several very light, faint scratches. I have no idea what might have inflicted them.

    Thinking it might be an anomaly, I checked all the iPhone Xs on display and saw the same thing. Whether it's the way Apple cleaned the phones or customers handling them carelessly, I came away with the feeling that the screen was too soft. It's not possible to know if it is without seeing how the phones have been treated.

    The scratches are very fine, only being visible when the phone is held at an odd angle and showing a dark/black screen. It purely a subjective thing. A great many users won't ever notice unless this gets really bad. If I get a X, it'll get a screen protector. My 5s' display is much older and is still pristine, even after using it without a protector for the first year of ownership.
    Those almost certainly are not scratches in the glass, but in the coatings on top of it. Coatings on top of sapphire (and trust me, you would want them) would show similar scratches over time.
  • Reply 11 of 11
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 2,989member
    macgui said:
    ksec said:
    making Touch ID on display more susceptible to scratches if it is on normal glass.  
    I was in an Apple store last Thursday to take a look at the iPhone X. Beauty! But in scrolling through various screens and website pages, I noticed that the screen had several very light, faint scratches. I have no idea what might have inflicted them.

    Thinking it might be an anomaly, I checked all the iPhone Xs on display and saw the same thing. Whether it's the way Apple cleaned the phones or customers handling them carelessly, I came away with the feeling that the screen was too soft. It's not possible to know if it is without seeing how the phones have been treated.

    The scratches are very fine, only being visible when the phone is held at an odd angle and showing a dark/black screen. It purely a subjective thing. A great many users won't ever notice unless this gets really bad. If I get a X, it'll get a screen protector. My 5s' display is much older and is still pristine, even after using it without a protector for the first year of ownership.
    Ahem, "microabrasions", please. :)  My previous X had a few of those, they happen on all iPhones I've ever owned. Flecks of sand in your pocket, in your dirty microfiber cloth or pant leg or whatever you wipe your phone with, gremlins with tiny chisels... On a display model though it's kind of weird, maybe they were scratches in the oleophobic coating or something more superficial?

    I get cases, though I will never use one. The screen protector thing though, ugh — I keep seeing people with screen protectors that are peeling and whitening around the edges, or have air bubbles... even the inset edge where it turns to the curved glass on newer phones. Why you'd want do that, I don't know. I suppose it's for the people who put plastic covers on their furniture and carpeting. and leave the gross peeling film on their new metal kitchen fixtures and home electronics.
    haar
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