Chinese manufacturer BOE reinstated as iPhone 14 display supplier after Apple “disqualified” it earlier this summer

Constrained by a lack of other competent partners, Apple is reinstating BOE on its list of iPhone 14 screen suppliers, with the Chinese manufacturer promising not to “water down” unannounced specifications agreed with the US giant.

Previously used as a “backup” for supplying screens for “refurbished” Apple products, China’s largest OLED screen manufacturer has finally managed to get into the select group of certified Apple suppliers, after previously being caught with unannounced changes designed to bring screen deliveries up to the volumes demanded by the American customer, sacrificing some of the quality of the finished product.

Eager to win the coveted Apple contract by any means necessary, supplier Beijing Oriental Electronics (BOE) surreptitiously changed the specifications of products already ordered, banking on the chance that Apple would not notice the changes made in order to overcome certain technological limitations, namely maximizing the margins by which screens are accepted for delivery, at the expense of image quality and possibly long-term reliability. If the plan succeeded, Apple would have received orders for the requested iPhone 13 screens as early as October 2021, and the BOE manufacturer would have had the promised contract for 30 million screens to equip the next generation iPhone 14 almost in its “pocket”. Everything was based on the Chinese manufacturer’s ability to deliver OLED screens meeting Apple’s quality requirements, in sufficient numbers to prove its ability to honour a much larger contract.

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According to information obtained from sources close to the two companies, the BOE manufacturer allegedly “adjusted” the width of the TFT circuitry printed in the screen substrate without informing the customer in advance, the change having been discovered during quality testing by the American company’s engineers. Caught in the lie, BOE was quickly removed from the list of trusted suppliers, the move appearing to sink the manufacturer’s ambitions for good, which has historically enjoyed the more or less visible backing of the Chinese Communist Party. Just like Huawei.

In the meantime, the negotiations conducted in a small circle with the American company seem to have defused the situation, helped by current market conditions, with Apple unsure whether it can procure enough OLED screens to ship the iPhone 14 in sufficient volume for a global launch.

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According to unofficial statistics, Apple has ordered at least 90 million OLED screens for the iPhone 14, aiming to fill the phone’s inventory for the year. With no great ambitions, BOE is expected to ship the 6.1-inch LTPS OLED display used with the base version of the iPhone 4 series, with buyers of advanced models being treated to solutions from reputable suppliers such as Samsung or LG. Presented in a breakdown, iPhone 14 screen orders are said to be 60 million units delivered by Samsung, 25 million units delivered by LG and just 5 million screens from the Chinese supplier, with BOE remaining on “probation” for at least one more iPhone generation.

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