LG Display CEO Han Sang-beom
By Kim Yoo-chul
It remains to be seen whether Future generations of the iPhone could have flexible organic light emitting diode (OLED) displays that can bend and twist.
LG Display, a major supplier of flat-screens to Apple, confirmed Thursday it would be able to mass produce flexible OLED displays from the second-half of next year.
Han Sang-beom, LG Display’s CEO, didn’t reveal any names when talking about the orders the company has been receiving.
However, it’s difficult to presume LG Display attempting such a big jump in technologies without commitment from Apple, its largest customer for screens.
It’s hard to predict when smartphones with rubbery touch screens will ever be commercialized, but Han says at least LG Display’s screens will be there by the end of 2013.
Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest mobile-phone maker, is expected to unveil a prototype of the bendable smartphone as early as this year although it remains to be seen how bendable the device really would be. Just because the touch-screens are flexible, that doesn’t mean the chips and other parts beneath them would be too.
``We will be able to release flexible OLED screens for smartphones sometime in the latter half of next year,’’ Han told reporters over a dinner Wednesday.
Steve Park, Apple’s spokesman in Korea, declined to comment.
Samsung, which competes with LG Display for the title of the world’s largest display maker, claims it has been receiving a large amount of orders for flexible OLEDs. The company, which boasts a dual strength in parts and finished products, will also use the flexible screens in its Galaxy mobile Internet devices.
Its plant in Tangjeong, South Chungcheong Province, is expected to produce some 960,000 flexible OLED sheets by the end of the year. Still, that isn’t remotely enough if they are for Apple, as the company uses tens of millions of LCDs every quarter.
LG Display’s commitment to flexible OLEDs also suggests that they will be considered for the future smartphone lineup at LG Electronics,
``Virtually all Apple products have been using our displays and we have gained credibility for technology sophistication and consistent quality. We will start the production of in-cell touch screen LCDs from later this month for the first time in the industry,’’ said Han.
He stressed the company has already started mass production of a new and thinner display, widely speculated to be for Apple’s next iPhone and production remains in line with product release plans.
``There are no quality-related issues. I can say we don’t expect any disruption in supplies,’’ said Han. Apple is expected to release its next iPhone around September this year.
These particular displays are described as a thinner type of screen, likely built with in-cell technology. In-cell technology is now allowing Apple to build thinner iPhones.
Current and previous iPhone touch-screens include multiple display layers, including a separate LCD and touch sensor sheet. With in-cell technology, the two layers are combined, making the display thinner overall.
Han said LG Display will invest 4 trillion won by the end of this year as earlier planned, though economic troubles and a slow recovery in the United States are sapping consumer demand for display-embedded products such as televisions.
In line with such uncertain market outlook, LG Display expects a mild increase in profit in the fourth quarter of this year and he remained rather cautious in giving an outlook for next year.
``We have returned to profit since April and the third quarter numbers will be better than the second quarter. But we don’t see a significant rise in profit in the fourth quarter,’’ he told reporters, adding the global LCD industry is approaching saturation.
With flexible OLED displays and strengthening business with Apple, LG Display is putting more resources on stabilizing production yields for large-sized OLED screens for TVs.
Television makers are migrating to thinner and brighter OLED models in an attempt to find their next revenue sources amid flattening and slower growth in conventional displays.
LG is competing with Samsung in the race for OLED televisions. Han denied speculations that his firm will fail to release OLED television by this year.
``As an engineer, I’m not bluffing. We are confident to debut real OLED television very soon. We will significantly boost production capacity of those promising screens from the second half of 2013,’’ he told reporters.
LG Display is reviewing a possibility to produce OLED displays from its display-making plant in southern China, which will go online from 2014 and Han said the company is also considering investing in the 11th-generation flat-screen line to respond to rising demand for large-sized OLED and ultra-definition (UD) televisions.