Apple + Toshiba = iPhone LCDs?


Dec 14 (Reuters) – Toshiba Corp (6502.T) will spend about 100 billion yen ($1.19 billion) to build a factory to make small LCD panels, mainly to supply to Apple Inc (AAPL.O) for use in iPhones, the Nikkei business daily said on Tuesday.

Nikkei reported that Toshiba Mobile Display (TMD) will begin building a LTPS (Low-Temperature Poly-Silicon) LCD plant in Japan’s Ishikawa Prefecture early next year. Mass production is slated to commence in the second half of 2011. Apple is reportedly an investor in the LCD fab. A Toshiba spokesperson claims the Nikkei report is untrue.

I don’t know whether this is true or not, but I have my doubts. TMD does not have IPS technology, a feature Apple has been touting lately with the iPhone 4, iPad, iMac, and Cinema displays. The next iPhone will need to maintain the display quality of the iPhone 4: currently there is nothing better than the 3.5-inch 960×640 IPS LCD Retina Display.

Most of the IPS LCDs that Apple uses are manufactured by LG Display (LGD). To invest in a future TMD plant would be unwise. The smart move: build a small R&D LCD plant near Cupertino with LGD.

Update: According to MacRumors, Nikkei is now re-running the same article but with Toshiba replaced with Sharp. This makes more sense since Sharp unveiled a 3.5-inch LCD with a 960×640 pixel format in its IS03 smartphone (read Sharp IS03: 3.5-inch 960×640 ASV LCD). And since Retina Display doesn’t need to be IPS, the Advanced Super View (ASV) LCD by Sharp qualifies (read Apple’s Retina Display: What is it really?).