Apple is changing the screen technology that goes into its iPhones, and its Asian suppliers are fiercely competing to win the large contracts to build tens of millions of screens.
Although recent Apple rumours have surrounded OLED, a next-generation screen technology with deeper blacks, Japan Display, a current Apple supplier, says that its new, competing “flexible liquid-crystal-display panel” technology will be ready by 2018.
In fact, Apple is “looking” at the new bendable LCD technology for future iPhone models, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.
The bendable LCD technology may be able to be bent or curved around the edges of a phone, like Samsung’s Galaxy Edge line of devices, which is a design that Apple is expected to implement in future models.
That isn’t possible with current LCDs, which requires a piece of glass.
iPhone 8 and beyond
Apple is expected to launch a redesigned iPhone this fall that uses a new OLED screen as its centrepiece. Rumours from analysts and media suggest that it will have slim bezels, wireless charging, and its fingerprint sensor integrated under the screen.
Samsung won the contract to be Apple’s sole OLED supplier earlier this year, but its rivals, including Japan Display, are still fighting to build the capacity to supply Apple in 2018 and going forward.
That suggests if there aren’t enough OLED screens, Apple might decide to go with a different technology after the so-called “iPhone 8.”
Aside from Japan Display, Foxconn subsidiary Sharp is also in the running to build iPhone screens. Foxconn’s chairman talked about building a US display plant in public earlier this week. Sharp’s CEO has described Apple’s struggle to secure enough screens as a “struggle.”
“We don’t know whether Apple’s OLED iPhones will be a hit, but if Apple doesn’t walk down this path and transform itself, there will be no innovation. It is a crisis but it is also an opportunity,” Sharp President Tai Jeng-Wu said.
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