UK-based smartphone maker Bullitt Group folded after a critical planned restructuring failed, a development coming three weeks after UK media reported the company was on the brink of insolvency.

Various former executives at the company revealed on LinkedIn posts today (29 January) that rugged device specialist Bullitt folded last week with all staff laid off.

Bullitt produced branded devices for JCB, Caterpillar and Jaguar Land Rover.

The Daily Telegraph reported earlier this month Bullitt informed the UK’s High Court in filings it intended to appoint administrators as it struggled to compete in the smartphone market with bigger names including Apple and Samsung.

While its insolvency appeared to end its ambitions in the hardware market, Bullitt told the newspaper it intended to focus on its satellite connectivity business and employees would be transferred to a new company owned by its creditors.

Aside from rugged handsets, the company turned its focus to satellite-to-phone connectivity for two-way messaging services in recent years.

The strategy to establish a separate business for its satellite efforts now appears to have failed.

CCS Insight chief analyst Ben Wood called Bullitt’s exit “a real loss to the industry”.

“Bullitt is a remarkable story of a plucky British team defying the odds and taking on some of the biggest consumer electronics companies in the world,” he told Mobile World Live (MWL). “It entered the niche rugged phone segment, went on to create a series of ground-breaking products including innovations like a thermal imaging camera and direct-to-satellite connectivity.”

“Bullitt’s challenges represent a wider issue in the smartphone business as companies like Apple and Samsung now largely dominate the vast majority of volume and profit in the business. It is unlikely Bullitt will be the only casualty in the next few years.”

Past success
At MWC Barcelona 2023, Bullitt co-founder Richard Wharton told MWL it had an early lead in the satellite segment due to employing 3GPP standards.

During the event, Bullitt won a best in show Glomo award for its Motorola Defy Satellite Link dongle, which connects smartphones to its messaging service.

Apple launched a service allowing iPhones to send emergency messages using satellites, while Samsung is rumoured to release compatible devices this year.