By Kim Yoo-chul
Apple has reduced purchases of liquid crystal display (LCD) panels for tablet computers from Samsung Display amid the deepening patent disputes, said a leading market research firm, Friday. Market experts said that the move is aimed at minimizing its reliance on Samsung parts
An analysis by DisplaySearch showed Apple bought 683,000 display sheets for use in its 9.7-inch iPad tablet from Samsung Display in August this year ― a cut by nearly 50 percent from a month earlier. 9.7-inch displays are only being used in Apple iPads.
In May, Samsung Display shipped 2.88 million sheets to Apple, which was a monthly record. But the shipments were down to 1.22 million in July from 2.5 million that Samsung sold to Apple in June, according to the research firm.
Last year, the Cupertino-headquartered Apple spent about $7.8 billion on components from Samsung Electronics, mostly on application processors, memory chips and LCD screens. But Apple had begun turning to other suppliers in Japan, Taiwan and other Korean LCD and chipmakers such as LG Display and SK hynix as for the alternatives.
``This is the first time that Samsung Display shipped less than 1 million displays on a monthly basis since November last year. But we aren’t too worried,’’ said a senior Samsung official.
In a meeting with local reporters Wednesday, Samsung’s chip business chief Jun Dong-soo said that the company ``won’t be aggressive’’ in terms of investment for facilities next year due to lingering external uncertainties.
``We are facing uncertainties. That means Samsung isn’t prepared to continuously increase facility investment,’’ said Jun.
While Samsung is losing Apple’s business, its biggest cross-town rival LG Display is winning more orders from Apple.
In August, Apple bought 3.83 million display sheets from LG for use in iPads from 3.4 million sheets in July. In March this year, LG just sold 886,000 screens for iPads, however, the monthly shipments were increasing to 2 million, 2.55 million and 3.39 million in April, May and June, according to DisplaySearch.
Gary Sohn, the head of LG Display’s public relations office, declined to talk more about its Apple business.
``Apple has shifted its display supplement channels to LG and Sharp of Japan. LG Display solved quality-related matters for Apple products. Its `Apple line’ located in Paju is running at full capacity,’’ said an industry executive.
Shinhan Financial, a local brokerage, raised its target on LG Display shares to 38,000 won from 32,000 won. ``LG Display will report over 1 trillion won in operating profit this year because it’s been shipping more screens to Apple’s flagship products,’’ said So Hyun-chul from Shinhan.
The analyst said the Apple iPhone 5 is using LG screens, while Apple contracted with LG to buy big chunks of displays for use in its next iPad ― tentatively named the iPad 3 ― and mini iPad.
Apple products such as the iPad, and iPhone continue to stress the display supply chain, given their cutting-edge performance specifications and strict quality control. Apple business is attractive to the display supply chain because it offers high volumes of a single model, which enables production stability.
Apple displays offer higher average selling prices (ASPs) due to specifications such as slim width, light weight, high resolution, low power consumption, high color saturation and wide viewing angle.
``The display supply chain has started to gear up for Apple. In the second half of 2012, Apple will launch three new products _ iPhone 5, iPad Mini and New iPad model. These mobile devices will require displays with high resolution, slim form factor, light weight and low power consumption. And certainly, these features are keeping the display supply chain very busy,’’ DisplaySearch said.
``This is the story for all leading display makers but Samsung,’’ said another industry executive.