One of the most standout features of Apple’s iPhone X was its display. The feature was popular not only because for the first time, Apple used OLED on an iPhone, but also because the quality of the display was class-leading. Surprisingly, the display was rated better than that of Samsung’s flagships, despite the fact that Samsung made the displays for Apple’s iPhone X as well. This year, Apple branched out and sought out LG Display as a secondary supplier for OLED panels for the upcoming iPhone, but it looks like the partnership has hit troubled waters.
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, LG Display is facing manufacturing issues for smartphone OLED panels. Due to the manufacturing issues, the company has fallen behind in its production schedule, prompting people within Apple to wonder whether the company would be able to deliver the displays in time for the launch of the upcoming iPhone. The exact nature of the production issue is not known, but what is known is that LG Display is expected to deliver displays for about 20 percent of the iPhone Apple expects to ship with OLED panels. LG Display is a dominant force in the OLED panel when it comes to large panels like televisions, but has struggled to replicate their success on smartphone OLED panels. Last year, the Google Pixel 2 XL which shipped with an LG-made P-OLED display was marred by colour shift issues so pronounced that many consumers returned their devices. The display’s colour shift on the Pixel 2 XL was the heaviest bearing drawback of an otherwise great smartphone.
Apple has a lot to lose if LG cannot come through with the OLED panels. Samsung, which currently controls almost 90 percent of the world’s smartphone OLED production, also happens to be Apple’s biggest competitor when it comes to smartphones. With the lack of an alternative supplier, Apple has no bargaining room on the price of the OLED display, which for the iPhone X, was the most expensive component of the phone. According to Fomalhaut Techno Solutions, a Tokyo based consultancy, the OLED panel used in the iPhone X cost $97 out of the total $376 that it cost to make the smartphone. Apple was even rumoured to be developing an in-house OLED production facility.
The need for alternative OLED manufacturers is growing with each passing year, as the lack of production means the panels remain expensive, and hence, limit the number of smartphones they can be found on. It remains to be seen whether LG can recuperate from the delays and deliver in time for the new iPhone launch later this year, where Apple is rumoured to again announce three new smartphones.