Struggling Apple display maker will take 2 years to start building OLED screens

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iPhone XR test
Japan Display currently makes LCD screens for the iPhone XR.
Photo: Apple

Struggling Apple display maker Japan Display is trying to reconfigure its business to develop OLED displays, instead of LCD ones. However, according to CEO Winston, it’s going to take at least two years until they’re ready.

The displays will reportedly be manufactured at Japan Display’s Hakusan plant in Japan’s Ishikawa Prefecture.

“To build a full OLED production plant in China will take three to four years before the product comes off the line,” Lee said. “To build in Hakusan, it may take only 2 to 2½. The cost at Hakusan would be half or less. We don’t have three or four years to wait for JDI’s OLED to reach the market. Our major customer cannot wait that long.”

It’s not 100% clear that Lee is referring to Apple, but it seems almost certain that he is. Apple currently represents 60% of Japan Display’s sales.

Japan Display’s ongoing struggles

Japan Display currently manufactures Apple’s iPhone XR’s screens. While the XR is a top-selling handset for Apple, it’s also just one of three models Apple launched in 2018. Combine that with a dip in iPhone sales, and this helps explain why Japan Display just posted its largest-ever quarterly net loss last month. The company lost 83.2 billion yen ($786 million) during Q2 2019.

With Apple switching to an all-OLED iPhone lineup in 2020, it looks like there’s not much future in Apple LCD handsets. For that reason, Japan Display is working to catch up on OLED production. As a test run, Apple awarded Japan Display OLED orders for an upcoming Apple Watch.

If it’s able to deliver those, maybe it will be able to reconfigure itself as an OLED manufacturer for future iPhones. It had better move quickly, though. After all, while OLED is still relatively new for Apple, who’s to say it won’t be looking for the next big thing in a couple years’ time?

Source: Japan Times