Apple considers adding another major OLED display-maker to its supply chain

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iPhone 12 might mix iPhone 11 and iPad Pro designs
Apple's going to need a lot more OLED displays.
Photo: Ben Geskin

China’s largest display maker is publicly confident it will meet Apple’s quality standards for its future needs of organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, displays and is preparing to possibly become another component provider.

A media report Tuesday gives further evidence Apple is expecting its needs for the state-of-the-art displays to grow beyond the supply of its current two providers.

ETNews reported BOE Technology Group Co., Ltd. is investing in OLED manufacturing equipment and production lines to create displays exclusively for Apple iPhones.

According to the industry, BOE recently decided to invest in OLED module lines exclusively for Apple. It is heard that BOE is planning to construct 10 new module lines at its B11 OLED plant located in Sichuan.

BOE has consistently been making attempts to supply its OLEDs to Apple. Along with the construction of B11 plant, it has been participating in projects for development of OLEDs for iPhones. However, it has yet to supply its OLEDs as its OLED has not satisfied Apple’s strict quality evaluation.

BOE gears up its OLED expertise

The report makes it clear BOE has yet to win a manufacturing contract with Apple, but that the iPhone maker has asked the company to make “necessary preparations” to produce its first OLED displays.

BOE has been producing small glass-based OLEDs for some time, but the company’s focus is currently in flexible and foldable OLEDs. In October 2017, BOE began producing flexible OLED displays in Chengdu, China with an annual production capacity of 90 million smartphone screens.

BOE is considered by many OLED display experts as one of the more cutting-edge manufacturers in China. As one former Apple engineer, who asked not to be identified, put it to Cult of Mac Tuesday, “BOE has great attention to detail. They have been extremely busy working on foldable OLED displays for other mobile phone makers, but getting in the fold – pardon the pun – with Apple is something they’ve always wanted.”

Samsung was the first supplier of OLED screens for the iPhone X and XS, followed by LG as a second for the iPhone 11 Pro.

For reasons unknown, BOE was not one of the original suppliers of the screens for Apple, but with the high-tech maker slowly increasing the use of OLED screens, the need for a third supplier appears to be essential to meet future demand.

The ET News report suggests BOE will be ready to produce OLED screens sometime in 2021, that is if Apple places orders in the meantime.