In the constantly evolving world of technology, investing in the future can be a terrifying prospect. For consumers and giant companies alike, betting the farm on “the next big thing” is a lot like playing the lotto; you believe in the possibility of success and you keep a shred of hope alive, but often times you’re left with nothing but the unwanted remains of your chosen failure – such is life. While tossing an unwinning lottery ticket in the trash costs the majority of us nothing more than a few dollars and an eye-roll at our own bad luck, a company’s choice of future investment is a risky venture at best. While the gamble could pay off in spades, it could also leave them with nothing but a warehouse full of shattered dreams (no Google Glass, we’re not just talking about you) and severely lacking in in liquid assets. Last week LG made the announcement that they were betting on the future of flexible OLED panels, and their ability to make them succeed, to the tune of nearly $1 billion. But will this huge investment by LG have the payoff they’re hoping for?
LG went public last Thursday with their plans to invest $907 million dollars into a new facility over the next two years, starting in September of this year. The plant, which is being built in South Korea, is for the sole purpose of mass producing flexible displays in anticipation of an expected rise in the need for them from smartphone makers. While flexible smartphone displays like the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and LG’s own G Flex 2 are already being produced in limited quantity, they have also been met with limited success. LG hopes that by making a large investment in the technology now, they can “help pioneer future display technologies such as foldable displays and large-size auto displays”. Still, that hardly seems reason enough to throw nearly a billion dollars into such uncertain waters – and that’s where the rumor mill comes in.
When playing Apple rumor mill: Fact or Fiction, it can be tough to discern the pipe dreams from impending reality. Nevertheless, it seems almost a certainty that Apple will introduce their first flexible iPhone in 2018, as they are already actively exploring flexible OLED screen panels. If that is indeed the case, it makes perfect sense that LG would want to ensure Apple of their ability to meet the demand with a quality, debugged product the year before the new iPhones hit the market (timeline is key here, people). And just in case a flexible iPhone wasn’t enough motivation for such an expenditure, LG is also looking into using these flexible plastic-based displays in products like automotive displays, next-gen smart wearables, and hopefully more of those 55-inch rollable OLED displays we saw earlier this year. For now at least, thanks to a leaked LG product roadmap, we do know that we can bet on foldable and rollable screens being available from 2017 onwards – given that date coincides with the end of LG Display’s two-year investment in the new factory, I’d say that’s information you can take to the bank.
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