Apple and OLED Keep Getting Closer and Closer

Apple and OLED Keep Getting Closer and Closer

Say it together, Universal Display investors: Are we there, yet?

Of course, fellow shareholders know I'm referring to the long-standing rumor mill surrounding whether Universal Display's innovative OLED technology will eventually find its way into at least one of Apple's incredibly popular products.

Heck, just last month, I highlighted supply chain speculation from the folks at DisplaySearch, which indicated that Apple could be working on a flexible AMOLED screen to be used in an iWatch with a late 2014 target launch.

But now, new information has surfaced supporting that claim.

Here's what they're saying now
Specifically, The Korea Herald is reporting that an anonymous source has told it that LG Display, which is currently one of Apple's primary LCD vendors, "has been in talks over flexible organic light-emitting diode panels for quite a while and it looks like it will be sealing the deal with Apple.

For those of you keeping track, remember, LG Display has historically maintained successive short-term agreements -- often renewed in six-month increments -- to pay Universal Display for OLED materials purchases, and for the use of its OLED patents.

Sure, that's a stark contrast to the 6.5-year contract Universal Display signed back in 2011 with Samsung, but only because the size LG's OLED material purchases so far hasn't grown large enough to merit the higher-volume rates Samsung enjoys by selling millions upon millions of its OLED-centric Galaxy series devices.

Who's not on the list?
On that note, The Korea Herald also stated that Samsung is notably absent from Apple's list of potential flexible AMOLED vendors, after talks between the two rival companies apparently went nowhere. Instead, along with LG Display, Apple may also be considering both Taiwan's RiTDisplay and, potentially, Japan Display.

So why is this so interesting? For one thing, we've heard plenty with regard to Apple trying to reduce its reliance on Samsung as a component supplier wherever possible, but not much about Samsung intentionally agreeing to cede its business with Apple.

Then again, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise, considering Samsung has not only made clear its views on OLED as a key differentiator, but also recently launched its own Galaxy Gear smartwatch -- which naturally boasts a 1.63-inch touchscreen AMOLED display -- in a less-than-subtle attempt to beat Apple to the punch. You can't blame Samsung, then, for not wanting to hand its coveted OLED tech over to Apple.

Unfortunately for Samsung, a recent report at cites leaked documents stating that, while "the Galaxy Gear attachment rate within Best Buy is the highest among all channels," nearly one in three buyers has subsequently returned the $299 device. In short, this either indicates the market, at large, isn't quite ready for smart watches, or Samsung simply missed on its execution -- or both.

Meanwhile, Apple management just took advantage of the company's most recent quarterly earnings release to, once again, tease at new product categories in 2014. Call me crazy, but it increasingly seems that the iWatch is the most viable new category it could offer, especially considering CEO Tim Cook's thoughts on wearable computing earlier this year, when he balked at Google Glass and, instead, asserted: "I think the wrist is interesting, The wrist is natural."

In any case, I've said it before and I'll say it again: One way or the other, Universal Display will find its place with Apple. When that happens, I'll be there with my shares of both companies to enjoy the ride.

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Fool contributor Steve Symington owns shares of Apple and Universal Display. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google, and Universal Display. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Universal Display. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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