Apple's MacBook screen supplier wants a piece of the OLED iPhone business

in Future Apple Hardware edited July 2018
Apple's MacBook and iPad screen vendor is looking to challenge Samsung's and LG's OLED stranglehold for the iPhone, giving Apple yet another supplier to leverage in price negotiations.

BOE flexible display technology
BOE flexible display technology

BOE Technology has supplied displays for Apple since 2015, and is the worlds largest producer of laptop LCD displays. According to sources familiar with the matter, the company seeks a toehold in the OLED supply for the iPhone, Apple Watch, and anything else the company is considering using the technology.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the earliest that the company could supply panels is 2020. It is already manufacturing some with a yield of about 70 percent, and supplying displays for the Mate RS smartphone.

That 70 percent is the low-end of efficiency required to be able to make money on the screen production. However, it is unclear if the company can maintain that if it ramps up to the volumes that Apple would need for the iPhone.

BOE is the only Chinese company that provides screens to Apple. It is also controlled by the Beijing city government, with its largest shareholders state-held companies.

The 2020 date may be too late. Apple has been rumored to be examining other technologies including quantum dot and micro LED.

Complicated construction

Success in LCD manufacturing is no guarantee of being able to crank out OLED screens.

A traditional LCD screen is considered transmissive -- individual elements change color, but are at the mercy of assorted backlight technologies for presentation. OLED screens are emissive, meaning that each individual pixel is its own light source with brightness being able to be set per pixel.

As a result, OLED technology also has significant power efficiency improvements over LCD screens. For instance, a black pixel consumes no power-- this also opens up other utilizations of an OLED screen, such as only using a small portion of it for a constant time and notification display, with minimal impact to battery life.

Without the need for a backlight, an OLED screen can be thinner than competing technologies, all other factors equal. OLED response times can theoretically reach 0.01 milliseconds, versus 1 millisecond for modern LCD screens.

Production is more complicated than LCD, with even a speck of dust completely ruining a screen during initial fabrication. The cost to construct each screen still exceeds that of an LCD.

Water impingement is a major problem for OLED screens both during production, and in-use. Even a small amount of water contacting the organic substrate of the screen can immediately damage the display, necessitating replacement.

Partly because of these factors, LG has been slow to transition its manufacturing lines over to the new technology. As a result, rumors about LG getting involved in OLED screen production for Apple's iPhone have taken a long time to develop.


  • Reply 1 of 5
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,501member
    I wish the nonsense about how OLEDs are more efficient than LCD. They are not. That is, a particular modern OLED screen may be slightly more efficient that another particular LCD screen. But a particular modern LCD screen may be more efficient than a particular modern OLED screen.

    we keep reading about OLEDs not using power when black is on the screen. That’s almost true. But when white is on the screen, it uses far more power than an LCD, which is why black UIs are in use so much these days, particularly for OSs where OLED screens are becoming used. You can notice that iOS is much more black oriented, particularly in a number of the apps, such as the timer which remains on the screen for long intervals since Apple came out with the iPhone X.
    edited July 2018 racerhomie3watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 5
    prismaticsprismatics Posts: 164member
    OLED is something like technical solution in search for a problem. There are other, much more advanced technologies available for integration in phones and big screens. At least that is my opinion.
  • Reply 3 of 5
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,501member
    OLED is something like technical solution in search for a problem. There are other, much more advanced technologies available for integration in phones and big screens. At least that is my opinion.
    Right now, there are no other technologies available on a commercial basic other than for LCD and OLED. While there are a couple of technologies that are in very small production, at extraordinary prices for military and medical application, none of those are available for the general market, and likely will never be.

    quantum dot is available, but only in a bastardized version. Some day, a real once will be available. MicroLED is also in the research and development stage, with Samsung having introduced a so called MicroLED Tv, which isn’t really MicroLED, just smaller LEDs. But it’s a start. But for small screens such as 15” and less, it’s not here yet. Maybe Apple will introduce a MicroLED screen on their 2019 Watch as a start, if it’s ready by then.
  • Reply 4 of 5
    claire1claire1 Posts: 510unconfirmed, member
    Give them a slice of that Sammy pie!
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