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Apple putting pinch on worldwide OLED supply, Chinese vendors looking to mini LED in 2018 phones

Supply chain reports from China suggest that Huawei, Oppo, and Xiaomi are looking at alternatives to OLED, as Apple grows the quantity of screens it needs for the iPhone.

According to a report from supply chain monitor Digitimes, Chinese manufacturers are turning to the relatively new technology because it both can't source enough screens, nor can it get them inexpensively enough to make them worthwhile for the low-margin products produced.

Recent improvements in the technology have reduced the number of mini LED chips for backlighting to 4000 from a previous 9000 in a six-inch device, bringing down costs.

DigiTimes does generally provide accurate information from within China's supply chain, but has a poor track record for predicting Apple's future product plans.

Production of mini LED backlighting for smartphones and televisions is likely to begin in second-half 2018, with specifications to be decided in the first half. Existing LED equipment can be adjusted to produce mini LED chips.

The mini LED backlight technology discussed in the report and sought after by the Chinese smartphone manufacturers is not the same as microLED. Apple is rumored to be looking into that technology as well for future device, as it has some inherent advantages over OLED.

Apple currently uses OLED displays in the Apple Watch, and the iPhone X.