Applied Materials, a firm that makes equipment to build screens for smartphones, is reporting a huge leap in orders, reports Bloomberg. The four-fold increase adds credence to a series of reports claiming that Apple is planning a brighter, 5.8-inch OLED display in an iPhone for a 2017 launch.
The company received a year's worth of orders in a single quarter and, without ever saying "Apple," Applied Materials still signaled where its products would be going and that it was readying itself for long-term growth. "It’s not a peak or a one-time event," Applied Materials CEO Gary Dickerson said to Bloomberg. "This is going to be sustainable growth. We all know who is the leader in terms of mobile products."
Only Apple could cause this kind of ripple effect
In its earnings call earlier this month, Applied Materials disclosed that the "great majority" of its mobile display business was focused on OLED displays.
Three of Apple's biggest suppliers — Samsung, LG, and Foxconn (which bought Sharp, earlier this year) — have all announced heavy investments in display manufacturing equipment and technology. Because of the need to build up a supply chain, orders for manufacturing equipment today would signal a ramp up for a consumer product coming out next year.
At this point, there is only circumstantial evidence to suggest that the increase in OLED production capacity would be for Apple, but it's also the only company that sells enough phones to cause this sort of ripple effect across the industry.
The addition of an OLED screen would be a significant upgrade for the iPhone and would be somewhat out of character for a more minor "s" iPhone upgrade that would normally be expected for 2017. The iPhone 7 is widely expected to be released this autumn. It could suggest the end of the every-other-year cycle for major iPhone revisions, which dovetails with Apple's recent move to introduce the iPhone SE some six months after the iPhone 6S was released.