South Korean manufacturers secure all OLED panel orders for Apple's iPad Pro

Jessica Tsai, Taipei; Jack Wu, DIGITIMES Asia 0

Credit: AFP

Apple is set to launch a new generation of the iPad Pro as early as March 2024. The total supply volume of OLED panels is estimated to be 8.5 million units, and it will be fully supplied by South Korea's Samsung Display (SDC) and LG Display (LGD). However, the absence of Chinese manufacturers like BOE has certainly garnered some attention.

According to a report from HanKyung, Apple will reveal its new-gen iPad Pro series in March 2024 at the earliest. It's expected to come in two sizes, 11 inches, and 12.9 inches, featuring OLED panels supplied by LGD and SDC.

In particular, LGD has been chosen as the OLED supplier for the 12.9-inch model, with a planned production of around 4.5 million units in 2024. SDC, on the other hand, has been selected as the OLED supplier for the 11-inch model, with a planned production of around 4 million units in 2024.

According to data from market research firm Omdia, the price of an 11-inch OLED panel is estimated to be US$290, while a 12.9-inch OLED panel is priced at US$390. Based on these prices, the total order value for LGD and SDC is expected to reach US$2.915 billion.

The fact that South Korean manufacturers passed Apple's rigorous testing could help them widen the gap over their Chinese counterparts in the medium-sized OLED market. The medium-sized OLED market includes products such as notebooks and gaming displays. To compete in this market, SDC has decided to build an 8.6-gen OLED production line, and LGD is reportedly adjusting the investment schedule of its 8.6-gen production line.

Looking back, South Korean display companies have stagnated in the TV and smartphone markets. Coupled with the strong pursuit by Chinese companies, South Korean manufacturers have lost their advantage in the foldable smartphone OLED sector. According to DSCC statistics, in the fourth quarter of 2023, BOE surpassed SDC to become the global leader in the foldable smartphone OLED market with a 42% market share, followed by SDC at 36%.

Something to observe is whether the medium-sized OLED market could become a breakthrough for SDC and LGD. The thought process behind this perspective is that most tablets and notebooks currently use LCD panels. There's a high likelihood that they will transition to OLED panels in the future. Moreover, medium-sized OLEDs are about 4 to 5 times the size of smartphone panels, which means higher profitability.

On the other hand, the iPad Pro may also mark the official launch of the medium-sized OLED market. Omdia predicts that the shipment volume of OLED panels for tablets will increase from 12.1 million units in 2024 to 27.3 million units in 2027, representing a growth rate of 125.6%. Similarly, OLED panel shipments for notebooks are expected to grow from 5.1 million units in 2024 to 29.4 million units in 2027, a growth rate of 476.5%.