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article imageApple investigating ways of toppling Samsung's OLED business

By James Walker     Jul 24, 2017 in Technology
Apple has reportedly bought specialist production equipment that could be used to make OLED screens for smartphones. The company may be planning to bring OLED production in-house, reducing its dependency on rival Samsung.
Reports covered by ET News and subsequently Apple Insider claim Apple has acquired chemical deposition equipment from Sunic Systems. The machines are commonly used to manufacture OLED displays by combining a substrate and volatile "precursor" material, although they also have other uses.
At first sight, the report appears to suggest that Apple's planning to start its own OLED production facilities. This would reduce its dependency on South Korean manufacturer Samsung Display. As Apple prepares to launch its first OLED iPhone, it faces an uncomfortable reality that it's reliant on rival Samsung to provide the panels required.
Commencing its own production line would represent a significant shift for Apple, a company which has traditionally always outsourced its displays and other core components. Other interpretations of the report have suggested Apple may take a different course though. Instead of building displays itself, it will instead help Samsung's rivals to increase production of their products.
The company wants to investigate how to improve OLED display manufacturing and deliver new breakthroughs in the technology. It would then share the insights it gleans with existing OLED manufacturers, excluding Samsung Display.
This fits with previous Apple attempts to reduce Samsung's marketing dominance. Earlier this month, rumours of an Apple investment in LG Display began to circulate. It's thought Apple is trying to help LG accelerate the development and production of its own OLED products as its timeline slips behind Samsung's.
In any case, Apple's shiny new chemical deposition machines won't be started up in time to produce the new iPhone 8. The device is now in its final days of development before mass production begins, although Apple is thought to be facing tight deadlines and technical problems with the design.
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Apple's one of Samsung's biggest customers but it also views the South Korean company as a major threat. As the iPhone 8 goes head-to-head with the Samsung Galaxy S8 on shelves, both devices will be using displays manufactured by the same company. In keeping with its other recent moves to bring production of more components in-house, Apple seems to be increasingly uneasy with its relationship with Samsung.
For the iPhone 8, Samsung Display is believed to be the only OLED manufacturer that can supply the number of panels Apple requires. Apple's expected to use OLED displays on all its phones next year though and it looks like it'll be doing all it can not to start major new contracts with Samsung.
More about Apple, Samsung, OLED, Smartphones, Displays