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Apple could make major upfront investment into LG’s OLED production lines

Apple is reportedly in talks with LG Display about investing anywhere between $1.75 billion and $2.62 billion into the South Korean firm's new “E6” plant with a target monthly capacity of about 30,000 units of sixth-generation OLED panels.

According to The Korea Herald newspaper on Monday, the upcoming facility would be “exclusively dedicated to Apple orders” and should come online as early as 2019. A source said that the funding from Apple should help LG Display reduce risks from the lower margin.

The two companies have tentatively agreed on the investment plans, but details on the timing and size of the investment have yet to be finalized. The final decision is expected to be made following LG Display's board meeting later this month.

LG previously discussed an $870 million Google investment into its OLED plant.

An anonymous source said:

Samsung Display is the only display maker that meets Apple’s strict quality criteria for now. LG Display is said to be meeting about 70 percent level of the requirements, while Chinese display makers are still struggling to catch up with that of LG.

LG Display’s OLED supply for iPhone was delayed because the company failed to purchase Canon Tokki’s vacuum machine, the most advanced OLED production equipment whose supply is extremely limited. Recently, LG secured two units of the machine to speed up production.

With the new equipment installations expected in December 2017 and February 2018, LG Display’s production capacity is expected to double to 60,000 OLED panel units per month.

LG’s other new OLED plant, called “E5”, will focus on orders from LG Electronics and Chinese clients. Samsung Display is expected to be the sole supplier of OLED panels for iPhone 8 this year. LG Display currently builds flexible OLED panels for Apple Watch on an exclusive basis.

Samsung Display is reportedly building the world's biggest OLED manufacturing facility dedicated to orders from Apple and Samsung Electronics.

iPhone 8 concept via Benjamin Geskin.

Limited OLED availability could hold back iPhone 8 launch sales

iPhone 8 production has allegedly hit another roadblock, with a sketchy report Tuesday by Taiwanese outlet DigiTimes suggesting the supposedly limited availability of 5.8-inch OLED display panels could hold back the phone's launch sales.

Citing industry sources, the trade publication says it'll be difficult for Apple to ship up to 60 million OLED-based iPhones in 2017.

“Only 3-4 million OLED-based new iPhone devices will be ready for shipping before the new smartphones are unveiled at a product event slated for September,” reads the article.

The publication did not give the reason for the allegedly limited OLED screen availability beyond stating that yield rates at assembly plants and the supply of OLED panels are “likely to become issues” for the Cupertino firm.

Take the report with a few grains of salt because Samsung Display recently negotiated a lucrative supply deal with Apple to build at least 80 million OLED panels for iPhone 8 in 2017.

In fact, the South Korean conglomerate is said to be supplying OLED screens for both iPhone 9 in 2018 and a yet-to-be-disclosed Apple device with a screen measuring 6.5 inches diagonally, as per The Korea Herald.

Besides, iPhone assemblers Foxconn, Pegatron and Wistron have been stepping up efforts to recruit more workers for their assembly lines in China, indicating that volume production of iPhone 8 is about to kick off.

On top of that, Apple's key chip supplier Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company saw its revenues surge twenty percent sequentially in May, partly driven by shipments of iPhone 8's A11 processors to Apple.

iPhone 8 mockup top of post via Benjamin Geskin

Edge-to-edge dummy offers best look yet at rumored iPhone 8 design

iPhone 8 is expected to have a nearly full-screen front face with a 5.8-inch edge-to-edge OLED panel and no “chin” at the handset's top and bottom. Benjamin Geskin has now combined the leaked parts in a dummy unit showing off what iPhone 8 might look like at launch.

The prolific smartphone leakster put a printed image of iOS 10.3.3's beach-themed wallpaper under a glossy screen protector to simulate edge-to-edge display design. He also posted a video on his Twitter account to show off the assembled dummy in motion.

I think this is our best glimpse yet at what iPhone 8 might look like.

#iPhone8 Hands-on Video (sort of)

(Dummy + Printed Picture + Screen Protector)

— Benjamin Geskin (@VenyaGeskin1) June 23, 2017

My only gripe with this Frankenstein iPhone dummy is the top area with a cutout for the front-facing FaceTime camera, the speaker and the phone's various sensors—it just doesn't look right to me. Now, Apple is said to have tested ten different iPhone 8 prototypes.

That said, there's still a chance we might see a fully bezel-less iPhone 8 come this fall rather than this nearly bezel-less appearance. But even if it does end up having that cutout at the top of the OLED display, the sensor dip may not be visible at all.

That's because OLED technology provides deep blacks, thereby making it difficult to tell where the edge of the screen really is, as readily apparent by the OLED screen on Apple Watch.

As the rendering above indicates, Apple could update iOS's status bar at the top so that the icons appear on the left and right side, without the current time being shown in the middle.

That would actually be a smart approach to concealing that sensor dip as much as possible.


Samsung to supply 80 million AMOLED panels for iPhone 8 in 2017

Samsung's display-making arm is set to supply up to eighty million smartphone panels for iPhone 8 in 2017, which will be based on active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) technology, Taiwanese trade publication DigiTimes reported last week.

On top of that, Samsung will build an additional 80 million AMOLED panels in 2017, but they'll be used to supply orders from Samsung Electronics and its other smartphone clients.

As per sources, Samsung is expected to “keep some flexibility” if Apple places more orders.

The report claims that component makers have now kicked off mass production of parts for both the AMOLED-based iPhone 8 models and the iterative LCD-based updates in the form of iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus, the latter two featuring a reinforced glass chassis with a shiny metal frame holding together the “glass sandwich” design.

As indicated by the current manufacturing status of the upstream supply chain, iPhone 8 won't enter mass production until after mid-September, with production volumes in the third quarter pegged at around three million units, meaning Apple will likely be unable to keep up with iPhone 8 demand for a few weeks or even months.

Switching the next iPhone from LCD panels to AMOLEDs is a sea change for Apple's supply chain given the tens of millions of iPhones the Cupertino company sells each quarter. Other suppliers, like Japan Display, Sharp and LG Display are pouring big money into AMOLED production plants, but they're not expected to join Apple's AMOLED supply chain before 2018.

Combined shipments of existing iPhones, including iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE and the 32GB iPhone 6 are estimated to reach a total of 25-30 million units during the second half of 2017, bringing Apple's overall iPhone shipments in the third quarter to around 45-50 million units.

Image: iPhone 8 CNC-machined model via leakster Benjamin Geskin.

iPhone 8’s Touch ID said to use on-screen optical fingerprint scanning

Apple is said to have developed a next-generation Touch ID sensor where an OLED display of the device doubles as a fingerprint sensor. This should enable users to rest their finger on the display to authenticate themselves.

According to a Chinese-language Economic Daily News report, citing sources from Apple's chip supplier Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Apple has managed to develop an optical fingerprint sensor to enable authentication directly on the screen.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo first called it in January.

He said because Touch ID’s capacitive sensor does not work through the display’s cover glass, Apple could go with an optical sensor which doesn’t require physical contact with a user’s finger.

Other iPhone 8 features, according to a TSMC source, include no physical Home button, the screen ratio of 18.5:9 instead of the previous 16:9 and invisible infrared image sensors to enhance camera functionality and enable augmented reality features.

Apple is understood to have been plagued with yield issues regarding the new optical fingerprint sensor. It's unclear if the company has managed to resolve those technical issues.

Samsung reportedly signs new deal for OLED panel production for iPhone 9

The Korea Herald is reporting today that Samsung Display, the display-making unit of Samsung Electronics, recently signed yet another deal to build OLED panels for future iPhones. With up to 180 million screens demanded by the iPhone maker, this deal indicates that Apple is laying the groundwork for a much wider adoption of OLED panels in future iPhones.

The new deal is focused on supplying OLED panels for the new iPhone next year, tentatively called “iPhone 9”. To build OLEDs in 5.28 and 6.46-inch sizes, the conglomerate will break ground on a new factory in the South Chungcheong Province in South Korea.

The mentioned 6.46-inch size may point to a future iOS device, potentially due in 2018.

“The two companies have recently signed a non-disclosure agreement on general conditions, including the screen size,” said a source. “Other details such as screen design and functions could be adjusted considering the phone is still under development.”

Samsung Display is already supplying 80 million OLED screens for iPhone 8 this year. iPhone 8 is said to feature a 5.8-inch OLED screen with an active display area of 5.1 inches.

Image: CNC-machined iPhone 8 dummy via Benjamin Geskin