Over the last 24 hours, reports emerged that Samsung appeared to be doing the unthinkable: Arranging to buy millions of large-size OLED panels from LG Display. Historically, Samsung has gone to great lengths to present LG’s OLED TVs as inferior to its own QLED TVs, which puts the idea of a massive OLED purchase totally at odds with Samsung’s claims.
And yet, several sources including Korean sites MTN and ETnews are saying that the two TV giants are about to sign a deal that will see one million panels supplied to Samsung in the second half of this year and another four million panels in 2022.
Digital Trends reached out to both companies for their comments on these reports, but Samsung’s representative told us they had no further info or details to share at this time and LG hadn’t responded by the time we published.
However, Korean publication Chosun Media released what it says is an exclusive interview with Samsung Electronics’ Video Display Division President, Jong-Hee Han, in which he denies that any such transaction is taking place. “(LG Display’s OLED supply rumors) are only rumors,” Han said (translated from Korean by Google Translate).
Han’s denial shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, but there are a number of curious details that suggest maybe Samsung could be contemplating a return to the OLED TV market, even if only as a stop-gap measure.
We’ve reported that Samsung Display has made big investments in a new, hybrid display technology called QD-OLED, which uses quantum dot nanoparticles from Samsung’s QLED TVs to enhance the brightness capabilities of an OLED-based TV.
The current expectation is that by June, Samsung Display will have QD-OLED prototypes to show its prospective customers, which could include both Sony and Samsung Electronics, and maybe TCL as well.
But even if things go much better than expected and Samsung is able to start shipping QD-OLED TVs (which it will likely name “QD Display”) by the end of this year, or early in 2022, the numbers will be very small at first and prices will likely be higher than current QLED or OLED models.
In the meantime, Samsung still needs a way to fill the demand for TVs in the short term. The company had initially said it would shut down its LCD panel manufacturing in response to falling prices and growing competition from Chinese makers. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has created unusual circumstances and a sudden increase in demand for TVs has actually increased the price of these panels.
It’s possible that Samsung now finds itself in an awkward spot in terms of its production capacity and is looking for ways to shore up its TV offerings while it waits for QD-OLED and MicroLED technologies to become mature enough (and affordable enough) to meet global demand. Buying OLED panels from LG Display would definitely give some additional runway if it can find a way to walk back its previous heated rhetoric around OLED technology.