avatarby Dan BartramDecember 29, 20160 comments

Apple could be moving to a display technology in the next iPhone and its future is all dependent on a Japanese supplier.

Canon Tokki Corp is the supplier of choice when it comes to manufacturing OLED displays, which are suspected to be used in the next iPhone. It seems that its not only Apple that the company supply displays for since it’s reported that Canon Tokki have an increasing backlog of orders.

The backlog is so concerning that it could cast doubt as to if Apple could include an OLED in the next iPhone.

“We are doing all we can to increase output and make that wait shorter. Demand from display makers, including Samsung Display Co., LG Display Co. and Sharp Corp., will remain strong for the next three years” said Chief Executive Officer Teruhisa Tsugami.

Apple has been improving the Retina Display in its iPhone models over the previous years and the next big leap is thought to come thanks to OLED technology. It’s not new, and has been used in Samsung high-end devices for a few generations, but it appears Apple is preparing to utilize the technology. While LCDs rely on a backlight panel, OLED pixels can independently light on their own, resulting in thinner displays and better battery life. OLED screens can also be made on flexible plastic, allowing for a wider variety of shapes and applications as seen with the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.

“OLEDs aren’t just for flat areas, but can be used on edges, so smartphone makers will challenge themselves by building displays with new shapes,” Tsugami said. “These qualities in OLED will give it an advantage.”

The machines that build OLED screens are almost all made by Canon Tokki and it appears the demand is outweighing what the company can facilitate.

“You don’t make it on an assembly line, but rather custom craft it for your clients like a high-performance supercar,” Alberto Moel, a technology analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., said of Canon Tokki’s machines. “Suddenly everyone wants your car.”

While other companies are exploring and testing procedures to produce OLED displays, Canon Tokki still have the monopoly and won’t see production begin until at least 2018. This week, Japan Display got a 75 billion yen lifeline from a government-backed fund that will let it invest in OLED production. Sharp is investing 57.4 billion yen for the development of OLED production facilities.

It could be that Apple therefore decide to omit the OLED display from the iPhone planned for 2017 and instead delay it until 2018 when either Canon Tokki can meet the demand, or other suppliers are able to offer the same service at the necessary standard.

Apple tend to prefer to delay products until they’re absolutely ready for release and the company are comfortable with the quality – I’m looking at you AirPods – so I don’t doubt for a second Apple will hesitate in modifying the road map of the iPhone to make sure it’s perfect.

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