One of the most important components of the 2018 iPhone could be produced by a company with very strong ties to the Chinese government.
BOE Technology Group already makes some LCD screens for Apple, but also wants to manufacture OLED displays used in flagship iPhone models.
If it’s successful at convincing Apple to use its screens, there might be political ramifications. BOE “is controlled by the Beijing city government and whose biggest shareholders are state-linked companies,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
BOE versus Samsung
Samsung makes all the OLEDs used in the iPhone X. As the only supplier, the Korean company can charge all it wants, which is one of the reasons the X is so expensive.
BOE wants to be a second source for this hard-to-produce part. But it will have to convince Apple it can do the job.
It has its foot in the door by already providing LCDs for iPad and MacBook computers. But Organic Light-Emitting Diode screens are challenging, especially as Apple needs them to be malleable enough to bend under to produce the edge-to-edge look that’s a hallmark of the iPhone X. (Another reason this component costs so much.)
China versus the world
BOE supplying iPhone screens would be a small change in a big problem for China. Despite its reputation as the country what makes half the world’s goods, it doesn’t actually produce many high-end components.
Foxconn famously assembles the iPhone in China, but almost all the parts are made in other countries. That’s why a recent study found that of every iPhone 7 sold, China makes under $10. Much more money flows to Korea, Japan, and especially the U.S.
That’s why BOE providing OLED displays to the 2018 iPhone models would be a real feather in China’s cap.