LG may supply a small number of OLED panels for Apple this year
Samsung's monopoly of OLED displays for the iPhone is likely to end this year according to Bloomberg's sources.
Sources told Bloomberg that Apple will soon secure a second supplier for the OLED panels to be used in one of the two upcoming OLED iPhone models. The second supplier is LG Display and it will initially supply between 2 million and 4 million OLED panels. These numbers pale in comparison to Apple's iPhone sales which is estimated to be over 216 million for the 2017 fiscal year.
“Securing a second supplier for OLED screens is crucial for Apple as it will allow the company to reduce its reliance on Samsung, which is currently the sole supplier,” said Jerry Kang, a senior principal analyst at IHS Markit. “At the same time, it will help accelerate a broad adoption of OLED screens. More suppliers means more volume, and in turn, lower pricing.”
Although LG Display wants to supply all the display panels for one of the two upcoming OLED iPhone models, it's uncertain at this point whether it has the capability to do so. LG Display is reportedly ramping up capacity, but shipment is subject to two layers of approval, the first of which is expected next month.
If LG Display manages to establish itself as a capable supplier, it would benefit both Apple and the South Korean company. Since Samsung's control over the OLED supply is the likely reason behind the iPhone X's exorbitant pricing, having a capable second supplier will allow Apple to negotiate better pricing with Samsung which will in turn lower the production costs of the OLED iPhone. LG Display will gain a new revenue stream to counter the decline in sales of LCD display. It is also said to be supplying OLED panels for the Google Pixel 3 XL.
Even with LG Display as its second supplier, Apple wants to diversify its suppliers as it seeks to bring OLED to the entire iPhone lineup in 2019. As a result, many display panel makers are ramping up efforts to win future OLED orders from Apple. The iPhone maker is also rumored to be developing its own OLED technology to reduce reliance on Samsung.