Apple Adds LG Display As iPhone X Plus OLED Panel Supplier [Report]

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The OLED screen was one of the reasons last year’s iPhone X was so expensive. Samsung was the only supplier on the planet capable of meeting Apple’s massive demand, and Apple had little leverage when negotiating supply deal with the Korean behemoth. Apple has since been looking to diversify its supplier base to reduce the reliance on Samsung Display. Bloomberg reports that the tech giant has added LG Display as the second supplier for this year’s iPhone X Plus OLED panels.

LG will supply only a small number of iPhone X Plus OLED panels

Sources familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that LG Display will supply only 2 to 4 million panels this year to Apple. By comparison, Samsung is churning out nearly 10 million panels every month. It means LG will be a small supplier, and Samsung will remain the primary supplier with a large chunk of orders from Apple. But adding the second supplier will help Apple reduce its dependence on Samsung and lower the cost of OLED iPhones.

The deal with LG Display will give Apple some leverage while negotiating the OLED panel costs with Samsung for this year’s flagship iPhones. IHS Markit principal analyst Jerry Kang told Bloomberg that it will also help “accelerate a broad adoption of OLED screens.” More suppliers will lead to higher volume and lower pricing.

Though LG Display will be responsible for only a small number of the iPhone X Plus OLED panels this year. It is hoping to grab a bigger pie in 2019. Bloomberg added that LG would supply panels only for one model, which most likely is the 6.5-inch iPhone X Plus. The Korean company wanted to supply all the iPhone X Plus OLED screens, but it doesn’t have that kind of production capacity yet.

Back in January, the rumor mill claimed LG Display would produce 15-16 million OLED screens in the second half of the year for iPhones. But later reports suggested the company was struggling to produce panels that meet Apple’s quality standards. Bloomberg says the iPhone X Plus OLED screens will be “subject to two layers of approval.” The first layer of approval is supposed to take place in July.

According to The Investor, Apple has invested $2.7 billion in LG Display to help the Korean company ramp up its OLED production capacity. The Cupertino company was also in talks with China’s BOE Technology Group to source OLED screens. Apple is preparing to release three new iPhones this September – a 6.1-inch model with LCD screen, a second-gen iPhone X with 5.8-inch OLED display, and a giant 6.5-inch iPhone X Plus.

If Bloomberg’s report turns out to be accurate, Samsung Display will still be responsible for all the 5.8-inch iPhone X2 panels and part of the iPhone X Plus OLED orders. Apple could switch entirely to OLED screens from next year when LG starts supplying in larger volumes. LG currently supplies P-OLED screen for Google’s Pixel 2 handset, which was criticized for its display-related issues. There is a good chance Apple could add a third supplier before the 2019 flagship comes out.

Second-gen iPhone X will get cheaper

According to noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, all the three models will feature an iPhone X-like display notch and bezel-less design. The analyst says Apple will reduce the prices of this year’s models. The iPhone X successor will cost between $800 and $900, down from the iPhone X’s $999. The 6.5-inch iPhone X Plus would start at $999. The 6.1-inch LCD iPhone is going to cost between $550 and $750 depending on storage and whether you buy the single-SIM or dual-SIM variant.

All the three models will feature the Face ID technology and Animoji that Apple introduced with iPhone X. Since the LCD iPhone will have a lower price tag, Apple will remove a few features from the device to keep its production costs down. For instance, the LCD variant is said to have only a single camera on the back while the other two will get dual cameras. It will also lack the 3D Touch functionality.

Kuo says the LCD model will get only 3GB RAM while the OLED variants would pack 4GB RAM. He predicts the LCD model will be the most popular iPhone this year. Consumers will be attracted to its iPhone X-like design and Face ID at a relatively lower price tag.

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