The saga of Apple's disappearing sapphire screens seems to have finally offered some concrete answers. According to a recent article by the Wall Street Journal, the screens' supplier, GT Advanced Technologies, wasn't just mismanaged — the product they were putting out was pretty much unusable.
Not that that's entirely GT's fault, of course. After all, Apple was asking a lot of the clearly unprepared company, and Apple's free-flowing funds made it especially hard for GT to pass up — even if they'd never be able to handle it. According to the Wall Street Journal:
The Apple-GT marriage was troubled from the start. GT hadn't mass-produced sapphire before the Apple deal. The New Hampshire company's first 578-pound cylinder of sapphire, made just days before the companies signed their contract, was flawed and unusable. GT hired hundreds of workers with little oversight; some bored employees were paid overtime to sweep floors repeatedly, while others played hooky.
One of the sapphire boules produced by GT's specially-made furnaces. Image via GT Advanced Technologies
All of which is a major problem in its own right, but add in the fact that Apple already uses "one-fourth of the world's supply of sapphire to cover the iPhone's camera lens and fingerprint reader" alone, upping that supply to cover screens is bound to exacerbate any preexisting problems — like, say, keeping track of the sapphire in the first place.
Manufacturing wasn't the only problem. In August, one of the former workers said, GT discovered that 500 sapphire bricks were missing. A few hours later, workers learned that a manager had sent the bricks to recycling instead of shipping. Had they not been retrieved, the misfire would have cost GT hundreds of thousands of dollars.