If true, Apple’s move would be negative for JDI and Sharp, which have so far been unable to mass produce OLEDs and currently supply LCD screens. Samsung Display Co., part of Samsung Electronics Co., has so far been the sole provider of organic light-emitting diode displays for use in iPhones. JDI shares fell as much as 21 percent, the biggest intraday drop since its 2014 market debut. Sharp declined as much as 4.1 percent, while Samsung was down 1.7 percent.
Representatives for JDI, Sharp and Samsung Display declined to comment. Two representatives for Apple in Asia didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
A shift to all OLED screens for iPhones would be challenging, given the sheer volume of the devices that Apple sells each year. While Samsung Electronics is the sole supplier of OLED screens for high-end Apple phones, the manufacturer also uses the displays for its own smartphones. At the same time, competitors such as LG Display Co. have struggled to move into mass production. LG Display rose as much as 5.9 percent, the biggest intraday gain in four months.
“Ultimately, the plan is for Apple to go full OLED on its iPhones as far as I know but whether that’s going to happen at this point is a question mark,” said Jerry Kang, a senior principal analyst at IHS Markit based in Bundang, South Korea. “Apple hasn’t been able to expand on its iPhone X production because of market demand and price issues.”
One of three new iPhones models last year featured an OLED screen. Apple is on track to use OLED in two of three new models later this year. The Electronic Times report suggests a full OLED lineup next year.
Indeed, the cost of OLED technology has been a major concern. Apple will introduce two OLED iPhones and one LCD model this year. Sales of the iPhone X with an OLED screen were crimped by its starting price of $999. Moving to all OLED screens next year would make it difficult to keep iPhones affordable for mass market consumers.
Jeff Pu, an analyst at Taipei-based Yuanta Securities Investment Consulting, said he doesn’t see Apple shifting to OLED screens for its entire lineup in 2019. Even with two OLED models, Apple will need to raise the overall price tag and face the risks of selling fewer iPhones, he said.
“It is unlikely that Apple will be releasing three OLED models next year as LG Display is unlikely to significantly increase its OLED production for Apple from 5 million to 10 million units expected this year,” Pu said.
(Updates share prices.)