iPad Pro with a glossy vs. matte display

Anyone following Apple supply chain reports knows that the company has been working toward adopting OLED displays on the iPad Pro for quite some time. Though the iPhone has featured an OLED display since the 2017 iPhone X, bringing the technology to the iPad lineup has proven difficult.

Delays seem to finally be reaching their end, however, as this new display technology should see its debut at the May 7 Apple event. A new report details how exactly the 2024 iPad Pro has produced fresh challenges for suppliers, and another highlights OLED supplier changes coming to the iPhone 16.

Unique challenges in the iPad Pro’s OLED process

From Digitimes:

The new iPad’s OLED panels are said to use a hybrid substrate that combines glass substrate and polyimide (PI) materials. This hybrid OLED combines the advantages of flexible OLED plastic substrates and rigid OLED glass substrates while overcoming the downsides of both.

A key component of producing these substrates is the etching process, wherein excess glass is slimmed down to make the end product as thin and light as possible, something the new iPad Pro’s OLED displays have been reported to deliver.

Secondly, Apple is adopting the 2-stack tandem technology for the first time. Simply put, a 2-stack tandem means stacking two OLED layers, characterized by a high refractive index charge generation layer (CGL) in the middle to connect two organic light- emitting layers.

This report makes clear that bringing OLED to the iPad has been a far more involved process than one might expect. Despite Apple suppliers mastering the OLED process on the iPhone, the iPad Pro is a unique beast that has created new problems and required fresh solutions.

iPhone 16 to use a new OLED display driver supplier

A second Digitimes report related to OLED displays focuses on the addition of Novatek to the iPhone 16 supplier roster.

Novatek has not yet officially been added to Apple’s supplier list. The report, however, highlights a sharp increase in Novatek’s orders of OLED Display Driver ICs (DDI) from Apple, indicating the iPhone 16 will involve Novatek in its supplier lineup.

It is not unusual for suppliers to be used for a product before being formally added to Apple’s supplier list, as there’s often a lag between a company’s internal order reporting and Apple’s public-facing list updates.

Novatek has been off and on Apple’s supplier list in the past, making this move not much of a surprise. It does speak, however, to Apple’s constant efforts to assess the supply process for each individual product.

Whether it’s a new iPad Pro featuring an innovative OLED process or simple refinements to the iPhone which has had OLED displays for years, it’s become common practice for Apple to change things up, adding and replacing suppliers as needed.

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