WSJ: Japan Display creating flexible LCD panels for 2018 iPhones

iPhone display supplier Japan Display has devised new manufacturing processes for mass production of flexible liquid crystal display (LCD) panels. According to a report Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal, Apple is considering using flexible LCD panels in iPhones launching in 2018 and beyond.

This is an interesting development in light of rumors that iPhone 8 will be equipped with a flexible organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screen. While not as flexible as curved OLED panels, Japan Display’s new processes do allow for the creation of bendable LCDs that support designs like Samsung’s curved-screen Galaxy Edge series.

According to Japan Display officials, unnamed smartphone makers have agreed to adopt its bendable LCD technology in the next few years. The company also hopes to sell flexible LCDs for other uses such as laptop computers and car dashboards. The company’s new processes don’t require additional technologies or factory tools.

“Mass production is planned from 2018, and we wouldn’t do that without demand from our clients,” said Shuji Aruga, Japan Display’s chief operating officer.

Apple and Huawei are Japan Display’s biggest clients.

“People familiar with the matter have said Apple is looking at the displays for possible future iPhone models,” reads the article. The rumor-mill is expecting three new iPhone models this year: LCD-based iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus, in addition to an all-new iPhone 8 model rocking an edge-to-edge OLED screen.

All iPhone models to date have used flat LCD screens, with the iPhone 6/6s/7 series adopting so-called 2.5D cover glass that’s slightly rounded at the edges to give the devices seamless look and feel.

While Apple may easily abandon flexible LCDs in favor of transitioning the entire iPhone lineup to the superior OLED display technology, that may be easier said than done because all of the suppliers combined are currently unable to fulfill demand for OLEDs from smartphone and tablet makers.

That OLEDs are costly to produce and suffer from yield issues isn’t helping either.

Source: The Wall Street Journal