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Apple's OLED switcheroo to set an iPhone 13 flexible display record

In one fell swoop, Apple is predicted to become the world’s largest client for modern flexible OLED displays, even after resisting the switch from LCD to OLED for years, and thus being late to the game – last year’s most popular phone, the iPhone 11, still carries an LCD panel, for instance.

It was not until this year’s iPhone 12 series announcement that Apple confirmed its complete LCD for OLED switcheroo, at least for its handset business. The release of the 6.1″ iPhone 12 marks a watershed moment for the OLED panel industry, and, more specifically, for its flexible display section.

The iPhone 13 series flexible OLED displays

When it’s time for the iPhone 13 production next year, it turns out, “half of the new flexible organic light-emitting diode (OLED) smartphones will be Apple iPhones,” reports the market research company Stone Partners. 

This year’s estimate of flexible OLED smartphone shipments is forecast to be 270 million units, a big increase from last year thanks in no small part to Apple, whose iPhone 12 models are predicted to sell 90 million units by year’s end.

In 2021, however, the continuing iPhone 12, 12 mini, 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max sales, and their respective iPhone 13 successors, are expected to push Apple’s flexible OLED utilization to the whopping 160 million panels. This will boost the total production of this particular OLED type to 315 million units, despite the significant drop in demand expected from Huawei because of the US sanctions.
In fact, next year could be the first one when phones will use flexible displays more than they will use rigid OLED panels, again thanks to Apple’s 180 degree turn on the display technology. It, after all, has to employ flexible panels in order to accommodate its gnawing Face ID module, and the biggest beneficiary from the switcheroo is likely to again be Samsung, even though Apple is trying to diversify its display supply chain with LG or BOE. 
For comparison, Samsung is forecast to increase its flexible OLED Galaxy phones from 53 million units in 2020, to 90 million units next year. A huge jump yet Samsung Display’s biggest customer in 2021 may turn out to be Apple, rather than Samsung’s own high-end phones.

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