LG Display is reportedly considering a major investment offer from Google, who looks to include the company’s flexible OLED display into the Pixel 2. The original report from South Korea’s Electronic Times states that Google’s attempt to secure a long-term source of the flexible OLED displays is high stakes – Business Insider puts the final offer somewhere near $880 billion.
The displays are, as of now, in high demand and short supply, and are currently slated to only appear for certain on the Galaxy S8 phones, though Apple has made a deal for LG Display to manufacture 160 million of them for the next model of iPhone.
The large-scale investment attempt on the part of Google appears to be, as Forbes points out, an attempt to resolve the long-standing supply issues on the first generation Pixel phones. According to Digital Trend, the phone made up 9.5 percent of all smartphone sales at Verizon, beyond what both Google and Verizon expected. That proportion grew to 12.3 in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
According to Wave7 Research, that left the phone with a large supply issue, as carriers quickly ran out of stock. Securing a special production line for the second generation’s OLED screens will help prevent similar supply issues.
Unfortunately, according to TechRadar, LG Display is still considering Google’s offer, meaning that there’s no guarantee that the Google Pixel 2 will feature the same curved OLED display that gives the Galaxy S8 its distinctive “bezelless” design. Such a large order would, as Engadget says, be a strategic move much more than a simple order, it would require an almost dedicated line at LG’s OLED line in Gumi, North Gyeongsang Province, which itself is a $1.3 billion manufacturing facility.
Business Insider notes that if LG Display refuses to take part in the deal, Google may be in trouble – both Apple and Samsung phones would carry them, but not Google’s. LG Display’s only rival in this field, Japan Display Inc., has meanwhile announced that it won’t be ready to produce flexible OLED displays until 2018 – yet the second generation of Google phones is currently expected for roughly October 2017.
The move also represents Google’s continuing trend of taking control of smartphone design. Previously, Google was focused on the phone’s software and OS, and was more or less content to let phone manufacturers such as Huawei, LG, and Samsung control hardware and design. The Pixel, however, represented Google’s attempt at a fully Google-based phone – by all accounts, a successful one.
As Engadget further explains, however, the move also implicitly favors one Android phone maker – LG, who has their own line of phones – over Google’s other major partner, Samsung. Yet, with LG’s own line faltering, this deal could begin to see LG pushed back into the role of hardware supplier rather than the developer of its own line of phones.
What do you think of the news that the Pixel might have flexible OLED screens? Are they essential for the next generation of phones, or mostly just an aesthetic item? What could Google do if it can’t secure LG Display’s cooperation?
By James Mayfield
Photo Courtesy Google