Displays of Apple’s Own Production Expected to Have Very Limited Impact on Samsung and LG

Bloomberg reported on Jan. 10 that Apple is working on designing its own MicroLED displays for use in devices like the iPhone and Apple Watch as early as next year.

The story included a forecast that it will inevitably affect Samsung Display and LG Display, which supply displays to Apple. Apple did not disclose its position on the report. Shortly after the report, LG Display’s share price fell more than 4 percent during the day.

Earlier, Taiwanese analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted that China’s BOE could supply up to 70 percent of the low-temperature polycrystalline silicon (LTPS) OLED panels needed for the iPhone 15 series, which are scheduled to come out in the second half of this year. He predicted that Samsung Display, which was responsible for more than 80 percent of the supply, might suffer a sharp decline in its share.

However, some display industry insiders said that the impact of Apple’s production of microLED panels on Korean companies will be extremely limited.

They said it would take a considerable amount of time before microLED panels are applied to medium-sized and large screens, such as the display of the iPhone. “It is difficult to load iPhones with microLED panels in a short period of time,” said Kim Jung-hwan, a researcher at Korea Investment & Securities. “This is because production cost efficiency is low when microLED panels are used for medium-sized and large screens.”

The analysts also forecast that Apple Watches will hardly have a big impact on the Korean market. “Samsung Display does not supply panels for the Apple Watch and LG Display supplies only a small amount,” an industry insider said.

According to market research firm Omdia, the current panel for Apple Watch is a low temperature polycrystalline oxide (LTPO)-based OLED, which accounts for only 6 percent of total OLED market. Sales of OLED panels for smartwatches make up less than 10 percent of LG Display’s total OLED panel sales.

In addition, the mainstream opinion is that even if Apple can secure display manufacturing technology, it is unlikely to go to self-production. He predicted that the actual application of smart watches would be after 2025. It is predicted that expanded application to the iPhone will be possible as early as 2026-2027.

MicroLED panels refer to a product whose chip size is reduced to less than 100 μm in both width and length compared to existing LED panels. Considering that the length of one side of the current small flip-chip LED is about 800 μm, the micro LED reduces the length and width to at least one-eighth of the current size. Apple entered the microLED panel market in 2014 by acquiring Luxview, a microLED panel maker.

LTPS OLED panels go into budget models of the iPhone 15 series (the iPhone and iPhone Plus) while LPTO OLED panels are loaded into luxury models (the iPhone Pro and the iPhone Promax). This is expected to make competition for landing orders for OLED panels for the iPhone 15 fiercer in 2023 than 2022. According to market research firm DSCC, LG Display’s share of the OLED panels for the iPhone 15 series was projected to be 28 percent, up 16 percentage points from the previous one. BOE’s share is also expected to triple from six percent to 18 percent.

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