Chinese electronic components producer BOE obtained an order for Apple’s 6.1-inch iPhone 14 display last year, and this year it will continue to supply key components of the high-end iPhone series. Local media outlet Chinastarmarket reported on March 8 that BOE will provide Apple with OLED screens equipped with LTPO technology. The agreement was signed in February this year, and the production line will be located in Mianyang City, Sichuan, a province in Southwest China.
LTPO, or low-temperature polycrystalline oxide, is a type of backplane tech used in OLED displays that allows screens to operate at variable refresh rates, while using less battery than a standard OLED display. It was originally developed by Apple. An LTPO OLED panel was originally used in the Apple Watch and was supplied by South Korean conglomerate LG Corporation. Later, it was used for the iPhone with Samsung as the main supplier.
The production line of BOE’s factories has been accelerating their shift from Low-temperature polycrystalline silicon (LTPS) technology to LTPO since 2021. In March 2022, BOE announced that the f-OLED LTPO variable frequency display had been mass-produced and implemented in the Honor Magic 4 series. According to BOE, the Magic 4 series adopts a 6.81-inch flexible OLED screen, with 1Hz-120Hz adaptive refresh mode and 360Hz touch sampling rate.
Apple introduced BOE as its supplier this time for cost control. “As far as Apple is concerned, it doesn’t want to bind too deeply with Samsung. Introducing strong display makers can lower the screen price to a certain extent,” said an industry insider.
According to Sigmaintell, a professional research and advisory company focusing on the global high-tech industry, in the global OLED smartphone panel market in 2022, Samsung and LG witnessed a decline in shipments, occupying 63.2% and 12.5% of market shares respectively. The Chinese mainland shipped about 170 million OLED panels last year, up 21.3% year-on-year, among which BOE’s share in the global market increased to 13.1%.
According to a performance forecast released by BOE, it is estimated that the net profit last year will be 7.5 billion yuan ($1.08 billion) to 7.7 billion yuan, down 70%-71% year-on-year, and the net loss after deductions will be between 1.8 billion yuan to 2 billion yuan, down 107%-108% year-on-year. According to Runto, a research firm, in 2022, BOE shipped 79.5 million flexible OLED panels, an increase of 22.6% compared with 2021. Among them, 31 million units were shipped to Apple, an increase of 89% compared with 2021. BOE expects flexible OLED shipments to continue to grow in 2023.
In addition to BOE, domestic manufacturers such as Visionox and Huaxing Photoelectric Technology have successively launched LTPO products to be used on smartphones from Honor, Xiaomi, OnePlus and Huawei.