Samsung Display Co. will begin supplying Apple with OLED display panels starting in 2017, reports The Korea Herald. According to the terms of the deal, which is worth $2.59 billion, Samsung will provide Apple with 100 million units of 5.5-inch OLED panels on an annual basis.
OLED panels eliminate the need for the backlighting used in traditional LCDs, potentially allowing Apple to cut down on the thickness and bezels of its iOS devices. OLED displays can also provide sharper images and brighter colors than LCD displays, but higher manufacturing costs and shorter lifespans are obstacles that Apple will need to overcome.
Rumors suggesting Apple and Samsung were close to establishing a partnership for OLED panels first surfaced in January, when Reuters reported Apple was seeking deals with both Samsung and LG Display. Later rumors indicated Samsung plans to invest up to $7.47 billion in OLED manufacturing equipment to fulfill orders for Apple. Apple may also plan to source additional panels from LG Display, AU Optronics, or Japan Display, three other display companies it has pursued deals with.
Early rumors said Apple would adopt OLED displays in 2018, but more recent information suggests that timeline has been pushed up. Apple is now rumored to be aiming to introduce the first iPhones with OLED displays in 2017.
A rumor from reliable KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and information from DigiTimes have suggested Apple plans to use 5.8-inch OLED displays for the larger-screened iPhone in 2017, perhaps for a wraparound display paired with a curved glass casing, but this information does not match up with today's report suggesting Apple has signed a deal for 5.5-inch panels.
According to Kuo, the 2017 iPhone will see a major design overhaul, which, if true, would see Apple breaking away from its traditional two-year upgrade cycle that includes a major redesign followed by a more minor internal update. Under that upgrade cycle, the 2016 iPhone would be the phone seeing a redesign, while the 2017 iPhone would feature the same design introduced in 2016.
Instead, Kuo believes 2017 will see Apple introducing a glass-backed device that includes wireless charging and biometric recognitions along with the aforementioned curved glass display and curved casing.