Samsung reported surprisingly good Q2 earnings last week, considering the slump in demand around many of the industries it covers, and now we know why. Remember the rumors that Apple had reportedly ordered 100 million OLED panels it signed a contract for but a lot of those were never used due to the tepid iPhone demand cycle?
Fast forward to 2019, and not only the iPhone X didn’t do as well on the market as predicted, but also the subsequent iPhones with OLED displays aren’t selling as well as hoped for various reasons. Samsung built those dedicated Apple production lines, but the bonanza of iPhone panel orders never came, as folks are holding their handsets for longer now, and were unimpressed with Apple’s OLED-equipped offerings that go for much more than their LCD-laden predecessors.
On one hand, there was a claim that Apple has already paid Samsung hundreds of millions of dollars to make up for the lost business that brought Samsung Display’s earnings drastically down – from $4.9 billion in 2017 to $2.3 billion last year. On the other, Apple has reportedly offered to order OLED panels for other products than the iPhone, including iPads and Macs, as a means to ramp up production, said one unnamed “industry official.” Of course, the two aren’t mutually exclusive, as Apple may have simply pre-paid for those rumored future orders, too.
The center is in hot water now, going into am explanation mode that it doesn’t take “bribes” from suppliers to suggest them to customers, but simply takes fees for its services. According to one LG exec local suppliers would have had a hard time working on Apple device, for instance, if it weren’t for them:
While the LG center exec gives this as an example that their supplier brokerage department is actually adding value by exposing Korean firms to world-class customers and production practices, the Apple bit caught our attention for another reason.
So powerful is Samsung’s near-monopoly on small high-end OLED screens that Apple, apparently averse to direct meetings with suppliers and signing contracts with them, had to sit down and do just that if it didn’t want to fall behind the times in screen developments. Alternatively, Apple’s reported aversion to contracts with Korean suppliers might have stemmed precisely from the one it signed with Samsung that has now forced it to part with the lofty sum of $770 million for booked but underutilized capacity.