Earlier in July, a report by The Korea Herald suggested that Apple and supplier LG Display were working on a deal that would see Apple investing $1.75-2.62 billion into LG Display's OLED manufacturing, specifically a plant that would be exclusively devoted to Apple orders. Today, Reuters has provided a few more details on LG Display's plans to enter the OLED display market for smartphones, which rival Samsung Display currently dominates.
In total, LG Display plans to invest $13.5 billion into boosting its output of OLED screens over the next three years, covering TV screens and specifically hoping to "make inroads against rival Samsung in smartphone displays." LG Display is already the OLED leader in large-screen television displays, but now the supplier is said to be seeking a strong foothold in the OLED screen market for smartphones, coming in the wake of OLED-backed iPhone 8 rumors and Apple's reported plans to go OLED-only on iPhones beginning in 2019, and perhaps even 2018.
LG Display will invest around $4.5 billion for a new production line that will create flexible OLED panels to help bolster its position in the auto display and smartphone market, and another $2.5 billion will be saved for another line of "large-size OLED screens." In regards to lines dedicated to small and mid-sized OLED displays, it's said that Apple will help out with getting the lines up and running, continuing the investment rumors began earlier this month.
Around 5 trillion won is earmarked for a new line for flexible OLED aimed at bolstering its position in auto displays and smartphones while 2.8 trillion won will go toward a separate new line for large-size OLED screens. Both production lines will be located in Paju, northwest of Seoul. Its planned 15 trillion won investment over three years implies an average of 5 trillion won in capital spending per year, above its usual 4 trillion won, but analysts said it will probably not be enough.
"For small and mid-sized OLED, it is expected to receive additional investment from somewhere else, perhaps Apple," said Lee Min-hee, analyst at Heungkuk Securities. "One production line for small and mid-sized OLED can require nearly 10 trillion won in investment. LG doesn't have the firepower to single-handedly build a lot of OLED production lines."
Apple's current OLED deal with Samsung will see the manufacturer supply 92 million OLED panels over the next two years. In The Korea Herald's report from early July, it was rumored that LG Display's OLED output for Apple would gear up in 2019, aligning with the end of Apple's contract with Samsung. A rumor this week has also pointed towards Apple's plans to develop its own OLED technology to reduce its reliance on suppliers like Samsung Display.
Apple's launch of the first-ever OLED iPhone is widely expected to be coming later this fall, in the majorly redesigned "iPhone 8," while more iterative updates in the "iPhone 7s" and "iPhone 7s Plus" will receive traditional LCD screens.