Apple's shift to OLED to benefit LG, Samsung display makers

Apple’s logo is seen at a store in New York. AP-Yonhap

By Kim Bo-eun

Apple’s shift to using organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels into its smart devices is expected to boost earnings for local display makers.

The iPhone manufacturer plans to incorporate OLED displays into its new iPad model to be released next year, according to reports and sources familiar with the issue, Thursday. This will be Apple’s first iPad to feature an OLED display ― it already uses such panels in some of its iPhone models.

Both Samsung Display and LG Display, Apple’s South Korean display suppliers, are reviewing investments in the necessary equipment, such as deposition machines, required to produce OLED display panels for the U.S. firm’s products. Reports said they are in discussions with their respective equipment suppliers.

The companies declined to comment on the deal, citing they were not in a position to discuss matters concerning their clients.

Industry observers project a gradual shift from LCD to OLED thanks to Apple’s wider adaptation of such panels for its devices. The company’s use of OLED panels for its next iPad model could invigorate the market for mid- to small-sized OLED display panels to the benefit of local manufacturers. Apple on its own has a wide array of smart devices, and its moves will likely prompt other players to follow suit.

Earlier, Apple utilized OLED panels for its Apple Watch in 2015 and for the iPhone X in 2017; and all models in its latest iPhone 12 series use them. In addition, it is set to implement a new strategy focused on high-end smartphones; future iterations of the company’s cheapest model, the budget iPhone SE, could even support 5G technology.

Local display manufacturers are in the process of switching out their LCD manufacturing lines to ones for OLED production, as Chinese display makers offering cheaper panels have eaten into their profitability. The transition is also set to benefit local materials and equipment suppliers.

“The transition in the small- to mid-sized display market to OLED is accelerating, as these are a superior, next-generation display,” an industry official said. “This is set to benefit local display makers given Chinese competitors have yet to catch up in OLED technology.”

Apple's shift to OLED to benefit LG, Samsung display makers

LG Display’s production plants in Paju, Gyeonggi Province / Courtesy of LG Display

While Samsung has focused on OLED panels for smartphones, LG has concentrated on larger ones for TVs, but is quickly catching up in the market for mid-to small-sized displays. This is set to accelerate as LG boosts its ties with Apple.

LG Display is also developing panels for a foldable iPhone model that is projected to be released in 2023 at the earliest. OLED panels are thinner, lighter and show improved picture quality over liquid crystal displays (LCDs) widely in use. It also has superior contrast levels, color expression and brightness.

Given the current small scale of OLED production, the prices of are more expensive than those for LCD displays, but these are expected to decrease once production expands.


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