Apple Planning to Launch Three New OLED iPhones in 2018
Earlier this year, a supply chain report said that Apple plans to make all of its iPhones with an OLED screen by 2019. Apple was believed to be preparing to adopt OLED panels for 60 million units of the "iPhone 8" in 2017, and then the company would double the adoption of OLED panels in 2018 before wholly transitioning to OLED-only iPhones in 2019.
In a report by Nikkei today, that timeline has been bumped up slightly based on two industry sources, who said that Apple is planning to use OLED displays "in all new iPhone models launched from the second half of 2018."
Not only that, but one source said that Apple is "tentatively" looking to debut three iPhone models next year, and all would use an OLED display. That would be in contrast to the trio of iPhones coming in 2017, two of which are expected to still use LCD screens and one of which will be the first iPhone to transition to OLED, the so-called iPhone 8.
Apple is planning to use advanced organic light-emitting diode displays in all new iPhone models launched from the second half of 2018, according to two industry sources.
One said that Apple is tentatively looking at releasing three new models next year. Apple did not respond to an email seeking comments.
Rumors about the "iPhone 9" started in May of this year, when a report predicted Apple would debut the 2018 iPhone in two OLED screen sizes: 5.28-inch and 6.46-inch. The supply chain is also believed to be starting to eye production of the iPhone 9, with LG Innotek planning to begin production of flexible printed circuit boards in 2018 in hopes of becoming a main FPCB manufacturer of Apple's 2018 iPhone.
In today's report, Apple is said to have already begun designing the new iPhones coming in 2018, "but its plans are subject to change," as usual depending on various market factors and component quality discovered through the production process.
The sources also cited concern over Apple's shifting to OLED-only models as soon as 2018, considering that only one company -- Samsung -- is a reliable source of manufacturing for the technology. Apple is already said to be looking into diversifying its OLED display orders, however, including potentially investing in a major LG Display OLED plant with production estimated to begin in early 2019.
Samsung will be the sole supplier of OLED displays for the premium iPhone 8 in 2017, but Nikkei's sources didn't know how much that might change in 2018. With suppliers like LG Display still not predicted to gear up on OLED production until 2019, Samsung is likely to remain at least a major OLED source for Apple in 2018.
Samsung Display declined to comment. It is unclear whether Samsung will remain the exclusive OLED supplier in 2018 even though other rivals are still struggling to churn out OLED panels for smartphones. Apple usually prefers more than one supplier for a single component. The two companies are also locked in fierce competition in the global smartphone market.
Suppliers JDI and Sharp will continue to supply LCD screens for iPhones like this year's "iPhone 7s" and "iPhone 7s Plus," which are expected to be sold well into 2019, "although demand could fall with the arrival of OLED iPhones." One Sharp executive speaking to Nikkei contrasted the site's first two sources, saying it's "not likely" that Apple will switch to OLED screens for every new iPhone launching next year.
A 5.8-inch OLED display has long been a rumor for the 2017 iPhone 8, and it's also expected to be a screen with an edge-to-edge design thanks to drastically reduced bezels. Recently, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted Apple will omit Touch ID from the iPhone 8, and then a report by Bloomberg said Apple is working on an "improved" facial recognition system to replace Touch ID in the tenth-anniversary iPhone.