Apple to adopt OLED display for iPhone from 2018
TOKYO -- Apple plans to introduce organic light-emitting diode displays for iPhones starting in 2018, sending suppliers racing to fine-tune the technology and invest in capacity expansion.
In light of the decision, South Korea's LG Display is already planning capacity upgrades. But securing enough panels for the more than 200 million phones Apples ships globally every year will likely prove difficult. The U.S. company is thus likely to opt for offering OLED iPhones alongside those using LCD screens.
There are technical challenges as well. The brightness, energy-saving capacity and other functions of OLED panels tend to degrade over time. Apple has begun consulting with display makers and their suppliers of manufacturing equipment about the technology. The companies will work over the next year or so to see whether those drawbacks can be eliminated and a stable supply of screens secured.
LG Display plans to add a new large-scale line for OLED panel production at its main plant in the northwestern city of Paju. The expansion is projected to cost the equivalent of several hundred billion yen, with the board approving the plan soon. Separately, the company had already announced it would invest 1.05 trillion won ($927 million) in a new smaller-scale line at its factory in the southern city of Gumi.
South Korea's Samsung Electronics is currently the only company that can reliably mass-produce OLED smartphone screens. LG Display has a track record for producing OLEDs for television screens. Given this, the two companies will likely supply a large portion of Apple's displays.
Apple's shift to OLED displays will have major implications for two Japanese suppliers -- Sharp, which is scrambling to rebuild its faltering operations, and Japan Display, which relies on the technology giant for 30% of its business.
OLEDs are known for offering sharper images and colors than the conventional liquid crystal displays used in cellphones since the 1990s, as well as for their power-saving capacity. The screens can also be bent and rounded to a certain degree, giving companies greater flexibility when designing devices.
Samsung Electronics in 2010 became the first company to use OLEDs in smartphones with its Galaxy line. Apple has stuck with LCD screens, which have been used in iPhones since the family's 2007 debut. But the U.S. company has been researching the picture quality and cost of OLED panels for several years. With improvements expected to continue, the balance is now tilting in the technology's favor.