Apple tests out new OLED suppliers for future iPhone refresh

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iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max
BOE Technology could join Apple's supply chain next year.
Photo: Apple

Apple is said to be “aggressively testing” OLED screens from other suppliers ahead of a 2020 iPhone refresh.

Cupertino reportedly wants to diversify its supply chain next year. It currently relies heavily on Samsung for OLED panels, with LG Display making only small contributions for the iPhone XS lineup.

Apple was buying OLED screens exclusively from Samsung for the iPhone X, with other manufacturers unable to meet the strict quality standards and incredibly high production rates of the iPhone.

LG Display joined the supply chain for the current iPhone lineup ahead of its launch last September, but Samsung still provides the vast majority of Apple’s OLED panels.

Apple hopes to change that in 2020.

Apple wants to add new OLED suppliers next year

The company is testing OLED panels from new suppliers as it looks to add others to its supply chain, reports Nikkei Asian Review. One of those suppliers is said to be BOE Technology.

“Apple has the incentive to qualify a new supplier for OLED display as [others] are a bit reluctant to invest too much to expand capacity,” WitsView analyst Eric Chiou told Nikkei.

“That gives BOE a good opportunity to break into the new market while the Chinese display company has already proven it has capability to supply to MacBooks, iPads, HP and Dell screens.”

Chiou says “it should not be too unexpected if Apple eventually buys OLEDs from BOE, too.”

Apple to make a decision this year

Sharp, now a subsidiary of Foxconn, Apple’s largest manufacturing partner, and Japan Display are also said to be bidding for an opportunity to build OLED screens for Apple.

It’s not clear if these companies are also being evaluated by Apple at this time. Nikkei says a decision on new screen suppliers for iPhone will be made before the end of this year.

Teaming up with another OLED supplier will reduce the risk of production problems should Samsung ever run into difficulties. It will also allow Apple to negotiate better rates for OLED panels.

Better iPhone displays coming in 2020

Earlier rumors have indicated 2020’s iPhone displays will be better than ever, with ProMotion technology — adopted from iPad Pro — that offers a refresh rate of up to 120Hz.

Apple is also expected to shrink the iPhone’s notch next year by using smaller front-facing sensors.