China’s top display manufacturer invests in ten Apple-only iPhone OLED module lines

China’s BOE has been working for some time now to become the third supplier of OLED panels to apple, with a new report alleging that the company has been investing heavily in iPhone-only lines in anticipation of Apple orders.

ETNews reports that BOE is readying OLED panels for use in iPhones, having started making investment in new production lines exclusively dedicated to Apple, with the goal of entering the iPhone OLED supply chain in 2021.

BOE has consistently been making attempts to supply its OLEDs to Apple. Along with the construction of B11 plant, it has been participating in projects for development of OLEDs for iPhones. However, it has yet to supply its OLEDs as its OLED has not satisfied Apple’s strict quality evaluation.

The company will be able to supply OLEDs once it passes Apple’s strict evaluation. The reason why BOE’s recent investment is still drawing interests is because its investment is a follow-up decision from its recent communication with Apple.

Unnamed industry sources were quoted as claiming that Apple recently asked BOE to “make necessary preparations” regarding supply of OLEDs. However, BOE’s investment in OLED module lines does not mean it’s signed an official contract with Apple.

This news appears to confirm analysts reports predicting that BOE might finally get the nod to supply OLEDs for future iPhones. BOE currently builds LCDs for iPads and MacBooks. The company files as the only Chinese display maker that supplies Apple.

The Wall Street Journal reported in July 2018 that BOE’s Apple-only advanced B11 OLED manufacturing plant is located in Sichuan province.

An excerpt from that report:

Making OLED screens is hard: It involves handling tiny compounds smaller than human hair and applying them in exactly the right spot, or else colors appear distorted on the screen. Those compounds, which emit red, blue and green colors on the panel, must be applied through a mask with holes 17 to 25 microns big, according to BOE engineer Cui Fuyi. That’s about one-third the width of a human hair.

BOE became the global leading supplier of large LCD screens in 2017, up from its fifth position globally in 2014, per IHS Markit. Apple began switching iPhones from LCDs to OLEDs with the 2007 iPhone X which used OLEDs exclusively built by Samsung Display.

Bloomberg reported that year that Apple had been evaluating BOE’s OLEDs for consideration in future iPhones. Rival LG Display entered the iPhone supply chain the following year, sharing orders for iPhone OLED panels with Samsung.