Apple is in the final stages of certifying flexible OLED panels produced by BOE Display for use in future iPhones, according to a new report out today.
The Nikkei Asian Review says Apple is “aggressively testing” screens made by the Chinese company, as it considers taking on BOE as an OLED supplier to cut costs and reduce its reliance on Samsung, which is believed to be Apple’s primary supplier of OLED displays.
BOE is the world’s top producer of large liquid crystal screens and already makes liquid crystal displays for Apple’s iPads and MacBooks, but the firm has its sights set firmly on the expanding OLED panel market, which is expected to be worth more than $ 30 billion this year, up from $ 25.5 billion in 2018.
At the same time, Apple is seeking to diversify its supply chain as much as possible. The company often tries to secure at least two suppliers for any given component in order to reduce its supply chain risk and improve its bargaining position. Given that Samsung’s OLED panel is the most expensive component in the iPhone XS and XS Max, bringing on board another supplier would be a significant coup for Apple.
According to today’s report, Apple is currently testing flexible OLED displays from BOE’s facility in Chengdu, Sichuan province, which is China’s first site to produce the advanced displays. BOE is also building another facility in Sichuan province, which would be allocated to Apple if it places orders, Nikkei‘s sources said.
Two sources with knowledge of the situation said BOE was likely to supply the new iPhones next year if it wins certification. But it might first be asked to offer displays for repair purposes, as well as panels for older models of iPhones, one source suggested. That would still mark a significant milestone for BOE, the source said, as it would be Apple’s first-ever purchase of Chinese-made OLED displays.
LG is believed to be the only other OLED supplier Apple is considering for future iPhones. LG already supplies OLED displays for the Apple Watch, but Apple will only order them for iPhones if the Japanese firm can meet the component’s high quality control standards – LG reportedly temporarily halted one of its OLED display production lines due to manufacturing challenges earlier this year.
Rumors suggest Apple will complete its transition to an all-OLED lineup in 2020, releasing high-end 5.4-inch and 6.7-inch models with OLED displays and a lower-end 6.1-inch model with an OLED display, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.
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