Apple might be bringing a brand-new technology to next year’s iPhone. And it might have some help from an unlikely partner.
Apple (AAPL) has inked a deal with Samsung Display to get organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays for its iPhone 7S line of smartphones, Korea-based news outlets the Korea Herald and Hankyung are reporting, citing people who claim to have knowledge of the deal. The contract is valued at 3 trillion won ($2.6 billion) and will supply to Apple 100 million panels for the company’s 2017 iPhone version, according to the Hankyung report.
Apple and Samsung (SSNLF) have a decidedly complicated relationship. The companies are currently embroiled in a U.S. Supreme Court case over whether Samsung violated patents Apple holds related to smartphone technology. Meanwhile, the companies are vying for the same mobile consumers globally, and have fought hard in their ads to show why their products are better than the alternatives.
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At the same time, the companies have benefited from each other. Apple, for instance, has long relied upon Samsung to build the processors built into its iPhones and iPads. Samsung Display, a subsidiary of the Samsung conglomerate, supplied liquid crystal displays (LCD) to Apple until 2009, when the companies started to have issues over competition and alleged patent infringement. Since then, Apple has largely relied on Japan Display and LG Display for its display technology.
Since Apple launched the first iPhone in 2007, the company has only offered LCDs. OLED, a newer technology that typically delivers better visual fidelity and thinner screens, has become the next big thing in display technology.
Samsung Display and LG Display have been the two main drivers in developing OLED technology. However, OLEDs are far more difficult to produce than LCDs, making it hard for companies to supply the number of panels Apple needs to sell its wildly popular iPhones. Apple, therefore, has been forced to stick with LCDs while some of its competitors, including Samsung, have delivered the technology in the high-end versions of their handsets.
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By next year, though, it appears that could change. If the reports are accurate—neither Apple nor Samsung responded to a request for comment, but several rumors have suggested Apple will eventually move to OLED technology—Samsung Display will have the ability to supply Apple with enough panels to satisfy the company’s demand.
It’s important to note that the Apple-Samsung Display deal is reportedly signed for 2017, suggesting that Apple could be going with another LCD-based display in the iPhone 7 it’s expected to announce later this year.
As usual, Apple has remained mum on any plans for the future, and it’s unlikely we’ll know for sure what company is supplying its display parts—and exactly the technology it’s using—until the company’s handsets are unveiled later this year and next year.