OLED screens are more difficult to produce, putting Apple at the mercy of suppliers that are still working to manufacture the displays in mass quantities, sources say. The four largest producers are Samsung Display Co., LG Display Co., Sharp Corp. and Japan Display Inc. While Samsung is on track to be the sole supplier for the new displays next year, the South Korean company may not be able to make enough due to low yield rates combined with increasing iPhone demand.
The supply constraints may force Apple to use OLED in just one version of the next-generation iPhone, push back adoption of the technology or cause other snags.
"Apple has already figured in there will be high demand for the OLED model and they've also figured out there will be constraints to these panels," said Dan Panzica, a supply chain analyst at IHS Markit. The combination of Apple’s stringent quality requirements and the difficulty of producing OLED panels will likely lead to supply constraints, he said.
Apple plans to ship at least one new iPhone with an OLED screen next year, the 10th anniversary of the smartphone's debut. A pair of other new iPhone models will likely feature screens that use older LCD technology, partly because there won’t be enough OLED displays to satisfy anticipated demand, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.
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