In the endless race to keep up with the latest and greatest smartphone technology, Apple has been purchasing OLED screens for its iPhones from its competitor, Samsung. For obvious reasons, Apple is uncomfortable relying on their competitor to supply them with parts, and has been looking for alternatives.
Recently, they have approached LG to manufacture OLED screens for them as an alternative to Samsung. This makes sense, as Samsung’s OLED screens are said to be expensive and Samsung is not going to do its competitor any favors on price.
The high cost of the OLED screens are being blamed as a major factor in the in the iPhone X’s high price… and for readers who follow the smartphone market, they will be aware that the iPhone X’s high price is thought to be part of the reason that the phone was (at least for Apple) a flop.
Unfortunately for Apple, OLED screens seem to be difficult for other manufacturers to produce. LG OLED screens are known to have serious quality issues. Google sourced their OLED screens from LG when producing the Pixel 2 phone, and it didn’t take long before tech blogs and forums were flooded with complaints about the screen problems, as I reported back in October.
Maybe it’s time for Apple to use that big pile of cash it has stored overseas to research developing their own screens and consider building them in the US? Regardless, Apple is not going to be able to terminate their uneasy relationship with Samsung anytime soon, as LG’s quality problems seem to be continuing:
Apple Inc.’s efforts to line up a second supplier for its high-end smartphone screens—and reduce its dependence on Samsung Electronics Co. have hit a hurdle, according to people familiar with the matter.
South Korea’s LG Display Co. hopes to provide organic light-emitting diode displays for iPhones slated for release this fall, the people said. However, manufacturing problems have caused LG to fall behind the schedule that many suppliers follow to begin mass production for new iPhone models, which usually starts around July, they said.
OLED screens tend to be thinner and more flexible than those typically used in smartphones. The iPhone X, released in November, was the first Apple phone with the display.
In light of the production problems, opinions within Apple are divided on whether LG Display can become a second source of OLED displays for the upcoming iPhones, one of the people said.
LG Display is the leading maker of large-size OLED panels used in television sets. But the process for manufacturing such panels and that for smartphone displays involve different technologies, which LG has yet to nail down, one of the people said.
LG Display was recently ordered by Apple to undertake a third round of prototype production for the OLED smartphone screens, an extra step that most suppliers don’t go through for many components, the people said.
After the Pixel 2 fiasco, I thought LG might seek to resolve its quality issues, but as the WSJ indicates, those problems are clearly continuing. I think it is unlikely that Apple is going to be able to source screens from LG. If they do, I fully expect the iPhones to get hammered for quality problems in a way they haven’t been before.
If the new iPhones do end up with quality problems, Apple will have an even harder time justifying its sky high prices, which are already hurting sales.