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Report reconfirms 2017 OLED iPhone to be limited by panel supplier yields

Concept rendering of next-gen iPhone with edge-to-edge display.

A report late Wednesday reconfirms rumors of an OLED iPhone variant anticipated to debut in 2017, noting the advanced display technology might be limited to higher-end models as panel manufacturers currently lack the ability to handle Apple's expectedly large order volume.

Citing sources familiar with Apple's plans, Bloomberg reports the company intends to release an iPhone version with OLED display for the handset's 10th anniversary, but low OLED panel production yields could put a damper on those plans.

Competing smartphone makers already employ OLED panels, but those products ship in relatively low volumes. As such, OLED manufacturers face low demand and are only now ramping up production capabilities. The world's four largest OLED suppliers, Samsung Display, LG Display, Sharp, and Japan Display, lack capacity to manufacture OLED screens for all iPhones next year, the report said. With limitations potentially continuing into 2018, it is unclear when Apple will be able to field an all-OLED iPhone range.

Like previous rumors, today's report claims Apple is pushing to bring at least one OLED model to market next year. Bloomberg sources say the upcoming smartphone will boast an all-glass design with edge-to-edge display and virtual home button. Shades of a possible virtual home button first appeared in the iPhone 7's solid-state, force-sensing component.

Among the four major OLED manufacturers, Samsung is most likely to provide Apple with panels for the next iPhone. Apple's first order is for 100 million units to be delivered across one year, the report said, far less than what is needed to field both 4.7- and 5.5-inch iPhone models. The contribution could be enough for a single high-end version, as suggested in multiple reports from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

Specifically, rumors suggest Apple will release a special 5.5-inch OLED iPhone alongside two LCD versions that carry forward current 4.7- and 5.5-inch form factors. Since iPhone 6, Apple has opted to equip its largest smartphone with special features like optical image stabilization and a dual-camera module. Given its penchant for differentiation, it is possible that Apple will opt to create a separate top-tier iPhone variant in 2017 instead of waiting for OLED supply to catch up with demand.

Today's report follows another Kuo prediction regarding the 10th anniversary iPhone model lineup. Earlier this week, the analyst said he expects Apple will incorporate dual-camera systems in both 5.5-inch OLED and LCD iterations.