On Monday, a report from South Korea’s ET News claimed that Apple’s transition to a full OLED iPhone lineup will be complete in 2019. This would mark the first time Apple has relied entirely on the organic light-emitting diode panel technology and not included LCD panels in any way, but now a group of analysts have responded to the report and argued that the 2019 timeframe might be inaccurate (via Bloomberg).
Jay Kwon, an analyst with JPMorgan, said that it’s too early for a switch to OLED-only production for the iPhone. This is because the OLED screens would make the smartphones more expensive, removing the chance for a “low-cost” iPhone model like the LCD version believed to be coming in 2018, and Kwon argued that Apple likely needs more time to find additional OLED suppliers besides its current sole supplier in Samsung Display.
While Apple has embraced OLED, most analysts said they don’t see the switch happening in 2019.
“It is unlikely that Apple will be releasing three OLED models next year,” said Jeff Pu, an analyst at Taipei-based Yuanta Securities Investment Consulting. The other major OLED supplier, LG Display, has struggled to move into mass production and isn’t likely to boost OLED production for Apple in 2019 from 5 million to 10 million units expected this year, he said.
While rumors about Apple’s incoming shift to an entire OLED iPhone lineup have been around for over a year, shares of suppliers reacted quickly in response to the new report from ET News. Goldman Sachs analysts Daiki Takayama and Jie Dai believed that “share prices have overreacted” to the news, because they “think it is unlikely that all 2019 iPhone models will switch to OLED screens.”
Arthur Liao, an analyst with Fubon Securities, said he has not heard anything from his own supply chain sources in Taiwan regarding Apple moving to all OLED iPhone models in 2019. Most analysts repeatedly pointed towards pricing as an issue, including IHS Markit analyst Jerry Kang: “Apple hasn’t been able to expand on its iPhone X production because of market demand and price issues.” Kang said that while Apple’s plan is to ultimately “go full OLED,” the real “question mark” is determining what year the company will make that shift.
In an effort to reduce reliance on Samsung Display, Apple has reportedly invested billions of dollars to help LG get up and running with OLED technology, and LG has been rumored to be the supplier for this year’s “iPhone X Plus.” Besides that model, Apple is predicted to release two other iPhones in 2018: a second generation iPhone X and a low-cost, 6.1-inch option with a similar full-face display as seen on the iPhone X, but with LCD rather than an OLED display.