Screens of tomorrow
By Kim Yoo-chul
LG Display is continuing to bet on liquid crystal displays (LCDs) while its rival Samsung shows signs of shifting toward alternative technology with a battle expected over Apple’s screen orders for the iPad3.
LG plans to build a cutting-edge production line for low temperature poly-silicon (LTPS) LCDs in its Paju plant by 2013 to improve screen resolution.
The LTPS LCDs cannot match the resolution of organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), which Samsung Mobile Display hopes Apple will adopt for the iPad3 rumored to be released later this year, but the former has the edge in price ― about half that of the latter.
``It is unlikely that Apple will change its convention of using the same parts for product sequels. LG’s construction plan would mean that Apple will stick to the LCD for the iPad3 and the much-touted gadgets will come to town in 2013,’’ said an industry source who is familiar with the issue.
Both the iPad1 and iPad2 use LTPS LCDs for its screens, many of which were made by LG Display. But rumors suggest that Samsung is working hard to change Apple’s policy for the iPad3 in favor of OLEDs.
Apple’s policy of diversifying its display procurement aimed at cost cuts could mean that it will mostly resort to LTPS LCDs and LG down the road.
When contacted, LG officials remained tight-lipped with regard to the high-profile investment scheme. But the anonymous source contended that some LG suppliers have already got orders to provider components for the new LCD line.
``LG Display required some of its part suppliers to manufacturer components for LCDs with enhanced pixels-per-inch (PPI),’’ he said. PPI is the gauge for the resolution for flat-panel screens.
Since last year, LG Display has operated its first LTPS LCD line in the Paju complex to mainly produce small-sized flat-screens used for tablets, smartphones and navigation systems.
LG Display’s CEO Kwon Young-soo recently said its latest IPS-based LCDs are more suitable for high-end hand-held mobile devices such as tablets.
``The one interesting point is that Apple’s top decision makers were satisfied with viewing qualities of LG Display products. That’s why Apple is asking LG and Samsung to provide PPI-improved LCD flat screens,’’ said a key source.
Analysts came up with both hopes and concerns for the LG strategy.
``The plan is an apparent strategy for the ailing LG Display to keep its stable status as the top supplier for Apple, which does make sense,’’ said Choi Do-yeon, an analyst at LIG Investment.
``But LG needs to soothe investor concerns over the future path of its technology as Samsung is enhancing the picture quality of its OLED screens for iPads and iPhones.’’
LG is still reluctant to spend on OLED lines currently being used in small-sized digital devices such as camcorders, as well as smartphones and navigation systems, while its rival Samsung is investing heavily for its early commercialization.
``It is known that Apple prefers multiple suppliers. But that’s not always true. If a supplier offers a better price, then Apple uses a sole vendor.’’
LG’s IPS-based display called the Retina Display has the edge with improved viewing angles, resulting in Samsung developing ``PLS technology.’’
A recent review organized by Boardnara showed that 82.5 percent of 80 participants preferred IPS-LCDs to OLEDs in terms of viewing quality citing better images.
Thirty percent of the total were dissatisfied with OLED screens as they were sub standard in displaying clearer images.
LG Display, which is LG Group’s critical display-making affiliate, is expected to report a decreased operating profit in the second quarter of the year as set-makers are hesitant to increase their inventories amid cuts in screen prices and weak consumer demand for electronic devices.
``LG’s operating profit for the April-June period will be around 80 billion won, lower than its earlier projection of 200 billion won,’’ said an unnamed official.
Son of LG declined to comment.