One Apple supplier’s misery is another Apple supplier’s fortune. Two of Apple’s key display suppliers — Sharp and LG Display — are not enjoying quite the same positive effects from working with the Cupertino firm. At one end of the spectrum is LG Display, an exclusive supplier of flexible OLED panels for the Apple Watch.
The company now dominates the smartwatch display market with a ninety percent market share thanks to its lucrative contract with Apple, as per Business Korea.
On the other is Japan-based Sharp, one of Apple’s display suppliers that has barely managed to avoid collapse after posting an annual net loss of a whopping $1.9 billion, according to The Financial Times on Thursday.
Sharp attributed the loss to strong competition from Chinese smartphone LCD panels and past restructuring charges. The company will now sell off its main office in western Japan and lay off ten percent of its employees, among them 3,500 workers in Japan.
The company envisions returning to a net profit in fiscal 2017 and has secured a line of credit from banks to help it survive through the difficult period.
For a long time, Apple wanted to switch to IGZO (indium gallium zinc oxide) display panels for iPhones and iPads, a technology that Sharp first commercialized back in 2012. Sadly, yield issues coupled with ongoing production and financial problems have held back mass-production of these cutting-edge panels.
Here’s Sharp’s 32-inch class IGZO Ultra HD multitouch display at Digital Signage Expo 2013.
According to a recent rumor, the upcoming 12.9-inch iPad Pro will incorporate IGZO display technology, using panels produced by LG Display, Samsung Display and Sharp.
IGZO technology delivers crisper images, deeper blacks and faster, more accurate touch detection while consuming a fraction of the power required by low-temperature polycrystaline silicon (LTPS) panels found on current iPhones and iPads.
Meanwhile, LG Display, an exclusive supplier of flexible organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels for the Apple Watch, has managed to grab a commanding 90 percent share of the smartwatch display market worth an estimated $240 million, no doubt thanks to its Apple Watch contract.
LG Display was responsible for 66.8 percent of the total smartwatch display shipments of eight million units, a dramatic sevenfold increase over just 1.1 million units in the fourth quarter of last year.
Second-ranked Samsung Display had a tiny 3.1 share of the smartwatch display market, while Japan Display, which sits at the third slot, barely registered at 2.1 percent (1.48 million units).
In addition to making plastic OLED panels for the Apple Watch, LG Display is also building circular OLED panels for LG’s own Watch Urbane smartwatch, which was unveiled back in March.
According to Reuters, Samsung Display will join LG Display in providing screens for a second-generation Apple Watch next year.