LG and Apple Said to Invest in OLED Manufacturing Capacity (Jul 25, 2017)
KGI Reports High-End 2017 iPhone Production May Be Delayed (Apr 24, 2017)
LG Confirms Interest in its Display Business, Doesn’t Mention Google – Android Authority (Apr 12, 2017)
Apple’s Next iPhone Will Have a Curved Screen – WSJ (Feb 28, 2017)
This report is written by a reporter in Tokyo rather than the US, suggesting that it’s a firm in the Japanese supply chain which is the source of the data. The headline doesn’t seem to be specifically supported by any of the actual reporting in the article, though – the article itself mentions that OLED can be bent into curved screens, but then only says that Apple has placed orders for OLED screens without confirming that it actually intends to use a curved screen. And of course, OLED screens have been reported for at least some of the new iPhones for ages now. I’m still very skeptical about the $1000 price point this article repeats, however. The other major point from the article is that Apple will replace Lightning with USB-C for the port on the new phones. I’m not as skeptical on this as some, but I don’t think it’s a certainty either. Between wireless for headphones and potential wireless charging, the port will just become a lot less important over the next few years, so at some point it doesn’t matter all that much what technology that port uses. There would be a certain symmetry, too, in abandoning the Lightning port after five years, just as Apple abandoned the old 30-pin connector after the first five years of the iPhone. Apple clearly isn’t wedded to particular ports or technologies for nostalgic or other reasons, and is willing to make changes where the upside outweighs the downside. And there’s a frustration right now to having to buy a whole new cable to charge your brand new iPhone from a brand new MacBook, which could be resolved somewhat by standardizing on USB-C. So I see the logic here, especially in making this change in the context of a big upgrade to the device, and I think this change may be inevitable in the long term, but it could easily be a year or two out still.
Here’s Why Apple’s 10th Anniversary iPhone Will Likely Cost More Than $1,000 – Fast Company (Feb 8, 2017)
The headline is focused on the price, but there’s some interesting detail in the piece that’s in some ways more important (and likely more accurate). Some of this confirms earlier reporting about OLED edge-to-edge screens, and a home button integrated into the screen. There’s some new information in there too, though, about an integrated 3D sensor, though it’s not clear what it’ll be used for (AR is one obvious bet given Tim Cook’s enthusiastic remarks about the technology). The point here is, though, that the $1000 price point is fully $230 above the base price for today’s 7 Plus, and so it would have to incorporate a lot of additional wizardry to justify that premium. I think it’s far more likely we see another roughly $100 step up from the Plus to $870, though of course with the right storage configurations that’ll easily rise over $1000.
via Fast Company
There are lots of pieces that come together in this announcement, though the actual details are still very vague, and no final decisions have been made. Firstly, there’s the pressure from President Trump during the campaign (repeated since in a gentler manner) for Apple to produce some of its hardware in the US. Then there’s the recent meeting between the SoftBank and Foxconn CEOs and Trump around bringing jobs to the US. And finally, the suggestion Apple might use Sharp (now owned by Foxconn to make OLED displays for the next iPhones). One scenario is that, as with the Mac Pro, Apple chooses a relatively low-volume, high margin product to manufacture in part in the US, with OLED screens from Sharp for a high-end iPhone 8 model one possibility. Apple has remained entirely silent on the question of manufacturing in the US, and of course doesn’t actually build its own devices anywhere, instead relying on Foxconn to do the assembly, so the ball here is somewhat in Foxconn’s court – without its support, Apple likely can’t do anything.
Apple iPhone 8 rumors: Features may include facial recognition, laser sensor – Business Insider (Jan 18, 2017)
Cowen doesn’t have the same track record in predicting future iPhones as KGI, which has by far the best, so we should take all this with a pinch of salt. But it’s in keeping with the broad sense that Apple is very interested in augmented reality, and would need to put more sensors and other technology into its products to enable AR functions. I’m still intrigued by the idea of further splitting the iPhone line – there are already three sizes, and this research note posits a fourth, larger one, with exclusive access to an OLED screen and embedded fingerprint sensor. There’s some logic to that, because all the supply chain chatter suggests Apple would have a very hard time finding enough OLED technology to power all of the next generation of iPhones, so making it exclusive to the highest end device would limit demand to a smaller number. Even so, that device is likely to be in high demand, as was the 7 Plus with Jet Black finish, another phone with supply constraints.
Reporting has suggested for some time now that Apple will be seeking to use OLED for in at least some of its 2017 iPhone models. The challenge is that OLED displays are in high demand and short supply, so supply constraints might be an issue.