Samsung will play a crucial role in creating the iPhone 12

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This iPhone 12 concept borrows from Samsung.
Samsung could profit big from the iPhone 12, too.
Image: ConceptsiPhone

Samsung will once again play a big role in making the next-gen iPhone as it has secured the majority of orders for the OLED displays for the iPhone 12, claims a report published Wednesday.

The iPhone 12 series of phones is expected to be Apple’s biggest upgrade in several years — featuring a new chassis design, OLED screens in every model, and Apple’s first 5G compatibility. And Samsung, Apple’s long-time frenemy, will seemingly get a big, lucrative piece of the pie.

While Samsung Display will get the majority of panel orders, it won’t be the only company Apple is giving orders to. Both LG Display and BOE Technology will reportedly share the “remaining orders,” according to Digitimes. Samsung will take 80% of the orders.

Samsung will lend a hand on the iPhone 12

Samsung has long made screens for iPhones. The company was Apple’s sole OLED display maker starting with the iPhone X in 2017. More recently, Apple has expanded its supply chain to include LG and BOE as panel makers. LG Display was added in 2018, while BOE joined the year after.

Adding other manufacturers to the mix isn’t necessarily a slight on Samsung, however. Instead, it allows Apple to share the risk of manufacturing among multiple suppliers. If Samsung has a problem, then Apple still has screens from LG and BOE that it can use. It also means that Apple can squeeze the margins to its advantage. For instance, around the time that it added LG Display to its OLED screen suppliers, Apple reportedly asked Samsung to lower the amount it charges Apple for these screens by around 9 percent.

With the iPhone 12, it may also be that Samsung doesn’t have the capacity to deliver everything Apple wants. According to a report by Jon Prosser, this year’s iPhone 12 units will be the first iPhones to use OLED screens for every model. In recent years, Apple has produced both OLED and LCD iPhones. Samsung — probably not coincidentally — has said that it will stop making LCD screens by the end of 2020.

Samsung: Friend or enemy?

The fact that Apple continues to rely on Samsung often surprises tech watchers. As the recent book Samsung Rising details, Samsung frequently positions Apple as its number one rival. But Apple, for its part, continues to give it business. The arrangement, while not ideal, nonetheless suits both parties. Worth noting is the fact that Samsung Display is a different part of the company to the Samsung division which makes phones.

Samsung Display has the capacity to make the quantities that Apple requires. Meanwhile, Samsung helping Apple by providing screens means that it reaps the rewards of the iPhone continuing to be a big hit. According to a report from a couple years back, Samsung’s pricey OLED screen panels means that it makes more than $100 of every iPhone Apple builds.