Apple has placed a large order with Samsung for OLED curved screen panels, according to multiple reports emanating from Apple’s Asian supply chain. The order is fuelling rumours that at least one model in the “iPhone 8” launch expected later this year will have a curved screen.
A supply chain source familiar with iPhone designs revealed the size of the order, which was in line with an estimate by David Hsieh, senior director at research company IHS Markit. It will be the first time Apple adopts a curved OLED screen for its iPhones, marking a major overhaul and generating high expectations for the model.
“Apple has ordered 70 million units of OLED panels from Samsung this year, while Samsung is preparing to churn out as many as 95 million for Apple in 2017, in case demand exceeds expectations,” Hsieh said.
DigiTimes, which has a sketchy record of reporting on iPhone rumours, yesterday summarised other Asian media reports of a curved screen order:
Apple reportedly has signed a two-year contract with Samsung Display for the supply of KRW10 trillion (US$9 billion) worth of small-size curved OLED panels, according to Korea-based ET News, Chosun Biz and other media.
Based on the contract, Samsung Display will ship 70-92 million small-size OLED panels to Apple in 2017, said the reports. This means that about 30% of iPhone devices shipped in 2017 will come with curved OLED panels, given that Apple currently ships about 200 million iPhone devices a year.
It is not clear whether the screens will be curved to support new functions, the way Samsung’s Galaxy devices do, or whether the screen curve will be more cosmetic. Currently, iPhone 7 Plus has a small curve at the edges of its screen where it joins the chassis – but the curve performs no functions.
The Wall Street Journal also reported that Apple was considering a curved screen in 2016.
However, more recently, rumours had suggested that Apple was going to stick with its more traditional all-flat design.
Apple is expected to launch three devices later this year, the 10th anniversary of the iPhone launch: A new large-format device might have a special name like iPhone 8, iPhone X, or iPhone Edition. Alongside it, two smaller devices are expected that might look like traditional updates to the legacy product. Those devices are expected to have flat screens, according to DigiTimes.
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