A new OLED screen tops the list of rumored features for next year's iPhone 8. But that could be in doubt as the company that makes the machines that create OLED panels is having a hard time meeting demand.
That's the word from Bloomberg in a profile of Canon Tokki, a company that essentially controls the market for machines that can make OLED screens. The Canon-owned subsidiary can only build a few dozen machines each year and it already has a "growing backlog" of units it needs to create for OLED panel makers. If Canon Tokki can't cut through that backlog, Bloomberg says, it could impact the number of iPhones with OLEDs that Apple could offer next year.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Canon Tokki's CEO Teruhisa Tsugami said that customers on its waiting list need to wait about two years before they can get one of its $85 million OLED-producing machines. And while it's unclear where Apple's manufacturing partners might be in line, the chief executive told Bloomberg that his company is "doing all we can" to get machines out the door more quickly.
Since 2017 marks the 10th anniversary for the iPhone, expectations are building that Apple will come out with a major overhaul of its smartphone after releasing a relatively modest update to its smartphone lineup this year. One potential area for Apple to improve would be the iPhone's display, which currently features an LCD panel. Samsung's flagship phones, in contrast, feature OLED screens, which offer richer colors, better contrast and black levels and wider viewing angles. They also would allow Apple to go with a curved design on its next iPhone.
But if Apple's going to swap out its LCD screens for OLED ones, it will need OLED panels. And this new Bloomberg report suggests there could be a bottleneck in the supply chain.
Apple could find a workaround by only adding OLED screens to some iPhone 8 models. To that end, some Apple watchers expect the company to produce three iPhone models in 2017, with an OLED panel being one of the marquee features on a high-end iPhone. Nevertheless, based on that Bloomberg report, it seems like the likelihood of an OLED-equipped iPhone will come down to Canon Tokki and just how quickly it can get manufacturing units out the door.