Apple and Samsung’s Complex Relationship in the Supply Chain
Apple is well-known for dictating terms to its suppliers but there’s one company that it has no power over – Samsung. Although Apple prefers diversified sourcing, Samsung remains its go-to supplier for high-end products like the iPhone 14 Pro and rumored OLED iPads.
Suppliers Must Meet Very High Standards
To win Apple’s business, suppliers must meet very high standards. Display maker BOE, for example, had to try many times to break into Apple’s supply chain.
Apple’s Plan to Break Away From Samsung with MicroLEDs
Apple is betting on MicroLED technology to break away from Samsung. The development, however, has proven to be more time-consuming than Apple had envisioned. MicroLEDs are brighter, more efficient, and more durable than OLEDs. Apple has been working on MicroLED screens for a decade and wanted to equip 2017’s iPhone X with a MicroLED screen. Due to high manufacturing costs and potential for defects, however, that didn’t happen. We can expect to see Apple Watch models with in-house MicroLED screens in 2025. The tech is not ready this year, but the company may release a MicroLED Apple Watch next year with panels from LG and Sharp, even though Samsung has expertise in this area.
Future Products Likely to Cut Samsung Out of the Equation
Some of Apple’s future products, such as the foldable iPad and mixed-reality headset, will likely only use components from LG, BOE, and Sony, cutting Samsung out of the equation.
The Complex Dynamics Between Apple and Samsung
The dynamics between Apple and Samsung are complex. Although Apple is used to dictating terms to suppliers, Samsung is ahead of other display manufacturers and isn’t as eager to please Apple as other suppliers. According to a report by The Information (via MacRumors), Apple often has to settle for things other manufacturers wouldn’t be able to get away with, such as secrecy, quality issues, defects, and not providing visibility into the manufacturing process.
Samsung’s Trust Issues with Apple
Samsung seems to have trust issues with Apple, which is why it doesn’t let the company engineers and security officials into its facilities. Samsung often ignores questions about its technology as well. In one recent incident, Samsung refused to clean the iPhone 14 Pro’s screen, which had traces of debris and residue. Another incident is when Apple engineers went to South Korea in 2017 to meet with Samsung employees, but they weren’t allowed inside the premises and had to stay in a hotel.
Apple and Samsung’s relationship in the supply chain is complex, with both parties trying to balance their interests against each other. While Apple may be trying to break away from Samsung, Samsung remains a key supplier for Apple’s high-end products.