Apple is trying to cut down on its dependance on lone suppliers of critical iPhone components, especially in the case of its reliance on Samsung for OLED displays.
According to a new Digitimes report, Apple is rumored to be building a new facility to better control the production of OLED screens expected to be used in the iPhone 8 and beyond.
Samsung, one of the Apple’s biggest rivals in the industry, has thus far been tapped as the exclusive supplier of the new screens. That exclusivity might not last beyond the next version of the iPhone, expected to be released later this year.
Digitimes reports that Apple has already bought some chemical vapor deposition (CVD) machines, which are used to build OLED panels. The machineswill reportedly be used to set up a new research and development facility in Taiwan, where the company can begin working on its own line of screens.
The purchase of the CVD machines could also give the iPhone maker a chance at putting its own spin on the display technology, which could be a valuable differentiator between Apple devices and Samsung’s Galaxy line as both focus on OLED technology for future screens.
This year, only the deluxe version of the iPhone is predicted to feature the new display technology, with the 7S and 7S Plus variants sticking with the standard LCD screens that Apple has used in the past. Apple is also expected to make a wholesale shift by 2018 and the iPhone 9, with every new version of future iPhones using OLED technology.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about a mysterious Apple-owned OLED R&D lab in Taiwan, either. Rumors circulated back in 2015 that the company had invested in a lab in Longtan, Taiwan with a team of at least 50 engineers working on some projects with the display tech.
Apple has also been linked to OLED development with LG, which was named in the report as having bought a CVD machine and also recently rumored to be the battery supplier for the 2018 iPhone. Samsung, meanwhile, could be a source of the OLED displays and chips for that phone, unless Apple finds other suppliers to diversify the supply chain, as it typically does.
Extra-tall OLED screens are primed to be the new standard for flagship smartphones, as the iPhone 8 is expected to follow the Galaxy S8 and LG G6 to a new 18:9 aspect ratio on its displays.
The heightened demand for the display panels, which are expected to ship in 150 million devices industry wide by the end of the year from a relatively small pool of suppliers, are part of the concern about release delays. Once Apple can produce its own displays, it might finally squash those assembly issues.