LG investment adds new fuel to reports that Apple is planning an OLED iPhone

iPhone 7 8 OLED Display LGImage Source: YouTube / Dom Esposito

Remember all the recent reports saying that while the iPhone 7 won’t have an OLED display, it’s likely that Apple will come out with an OLED iPhone by 2018? Now, there’s one more hint that Apple’s iPhone is about to go OLED when it comes to screen technology: LG confirmed that it will invest no less than $8.4 billion in a new OLED plant that seems to suggest the Korean giant is preparing for a big boost in demand for OLED displays.

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LG said nothing about the iPhone in its Friday press release, and it didn’t even mention anything about smartphones in general in the announcement. But the company did say the new plant will be built in Paju, with production expected to commence in the first half of 2018. These details seem to coincide with what recent reports said – the iPhone is getting OLED displays in 2018, but not sooner.

According to LG, the P10 plant will handle “anticipated demand for OLED panels over the next several years,” producing both large-size OLED TV panels and flexible OLED panels for smartwatches and automotive displays.

LG already handles OLED display supply for the Apple Watch and earlier reports have suggested that LG and Samsung will likely supply the necessary OLED screen capacity to handle Apple’s demand for the iPhone.

Interestingly, Foxconn is also building a screen plant of its own that will make LCDs for the iPhone. Production is set to begin in 2018. The Korea Times said that Foxconn will handle LCD demand for Apple’s budget iPhone.

LG’s full press release follows below.

LG Display Makes Major Investment in Next-generation OLED Panels

Seoul, Korea (Nov. 27, 2015) – LG Display, the world’s leading innovator of display technologies, announced today that it will invest KRW1.84 trillion to begin building a new panel plant in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, Korea, with production expected to commence in the first half of 2018.

The company decided on the new plant, known as P10, because of anticipated demand for OLED panels over the next several years. The P10 plant will mainly produce both large-size OLED TV panels and flexible OLED panels for smartwatches and automotive displays.

The KRW1.84 trillion investment covers the construction of the P10 building, the foundations for the clean rooms and infrastructure for water and power supplies and will begin this year. The total investment in the P10 plant is expected to reach more than KRW10 trillion, and with LG Display gradually expanding the scale of the production line based on customer demand and market conditions.

The completed plant will cover an area of 382m x 265m, which is equivalent in size to 14 football fields, and will be 100 meters high. Plans call mostly for the installation of large size OLED lines that will be 9th generation or above along with flexible OLED lines at the new plant. The first production line is scheduled to start mass production in the first half of 2018.

The company is expecting the lines will produce OLED in every product segment, including ultra large-size products as well as future products such as flexible and transparent displays. Dr. Sang Beom Han, CEO and President of LG Display said, “LG Display’s investment in P10 Plant is a historical investment for the industry since it will not only help expand the OLED market but also accelerate the development of future display technologies. With the active support of the Korean government, we believe the P10 plant will become the center of the global OLED industry.”

IHS, the market research firm, forecasts the global OLED panel market will grow to $29.1 billion in 2022 from $8.7 billion in 2014.

TV manufacturers in Korea, China and Japan have already launched OLED TV models and more TV manufacturers in Japan and Europe are expected to adopt OLED TVs in the near future. Demand for flexible OLED panels in the smartwatch and automotive display sectors is also rising because they offer better design flexibility than LCD panels.

LG Display announced in August that it would invest more than KRW10 trillion in expanding production of large-size OLED panels, flexible OLED panels and premium LCDs by 2018. The company has already announced it will invest KRW1.05 trillion in a 6th generation flexible OLED production line in Gumi, Gyeongsangbuk Province. The 6th- generation production line will produce 7,500 sheets per month and is expected to start mass production in the first half of 2017.

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