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LG bets on OLED screens, possibly for iPhones, with new $8.67B factory

OLED displays show deeper darks and use less power than a traditional LCD. LG's big OLED factory investment coincides with reports of Apple using the screen tech by 2018.

The Apple Watch is the company's only product using an OLED display in lieu of a traditional LCD screen but Apple's iPhone may be next in line. Reports suggest that by 2018, Apple will use the more power efficient OLED technology in handsets, and LG is investing big on that possibility.

LG announced on Friday that it is spending 1.84 trillion Korean Won (US $1.6 billion) to start construction on a new OLED panel plan in Korea, which is expected to begin display panel production in early 2018. The company says the initial investment is just the beginning, with total funding for the fully completed OLED plant to top 10 trillion KRW, or $8.67 billion.

LG's news coincides with a Nikkei report suggesting that Apple will move to OLED screens for iPhones within the next three years.

If Apple does decide on using OLED panels for future iPhones, it could buy them from Samsung, which uses the display technology on many of its own phones.

But Apple typically doesn't rely on a single component supplier if it can help it, in order to mitigate its supply chain for inventory or yield purposes. Adding LG to the mix would provide Apple a choice of where to procure OLED panels for iPhones if indeed it wants to use them for handsets.

OLED displays can be more power efficient than standard LCD panels because each pixel can be lit or darkened as needed: You don't have to backlight every single pixel on an OLED screen, meaning fewer lit pixels use less energy.