Sony will start sourcing flexible OLED panels for smartphones from LG Display, BusinessKorea reported Monday, citing sources familiar with the matter. The South Korean company has already been supplying Sony with such screens for TVs but the latest development saw their partnership expand to contemporary handsets, with some industry watchers interpreting the move as being indicative of foldable mobile devices being in the pipeline. The Japanese original equipment manufacturer saw its mobile business decline in recent years, though the company is still adamant to stay in the smartphone industry, even if it already lost all hope of gaining a significant foothold in the global market and is only continuing to pursue handsets so as to stay up to date with a number of emerging technologies such as telecommunications that are expected to allow for entirely new product categories, according to recent statements from its Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai.
In the short term, Sony intends to defend its minor share of the global smartphone market by delivering devices that are in line with recent industry trends while still being unique, industry sources previously claimed. The firm's 2018 flagships are expected to feature a new "Mirai" design that would adopt minimal bezels popularized in the industry over the course of 2017 but wouldn't do away with 16:9 display panels in favor of screens with a taller, 18:9 aspect ratio, according to multiple reports. Moving beyond the full-screen aesthetic, the company may also be aiming to be among the first OEMs in the foldable smartphone market that's expected to be established within the next two years. Samsung is widely expected to be the first phone maker to commercialize such a device, with its Galaxy X being rumored about for numerous years now. Sony's newfound interest in small flexible OLED panels intended for smartphones could signal an interest in the same product category.
LG Display is scheduled to start mass-producing flexible mobile OLEDs in the third quarter of the year, with recent estimates putting the future output of its Paju E6 plant at 15,000 sheets per month. The Seoul-based company is still looking for more buyers for its display modules besides Sony, whereas the Japanese tech giant is now reportedly looking to hire additional OLED engineers that would work on the firm's future smartphone solutions, including foldable phones, one source claims.