Google Reportedly To Invest $877M in LG's OLED for Pixel Phones

Tech giant Google is said to be considering an investment of 1 trillion won, about $877 million, in LG Display to ensure access to a supply of flexible screens for the next generation of its smartphones.

That investment is reportedly being made to ensure Google can produce a flexible screen version of its Pixel smartphone using LG Display's OLED (organic light-emitting diode) technology, according to reports from South Korea's ETNews and Yonhap News Agency. The arrangement would also provide LG Display with the upfront cash to ramp up production of such OLEDs.

LG Display said its plastic screen technology is "the world's first flexible OLED display panel for smartphones." Reportedly, other companies, including Apple and Samsung, have also been looking at flexible screen smartphones as the technology continues to improve.

'Paradigm Shift to OLED'

Citing "industry sources," ETNews yesterday reported that new Pixel phones featuring LG Display's OLED technology could be released in the second half of this year. ETNews added the two companies are also "collaborating on the development of foldable displays."

In the past 18 months, LG Display has revealed plans to spend billions of dollars building new production facilities for OLED screens. In a July 2016 statement announcing the development of a new construction line at its plant in Paju, South Korea, CEO and vice chairman Sang-Beom Han said the company's goal is to lead an industry shift to OLED screens for mobile devices.

"A paradigm shift to OLED represents both a challenge and an opportunity for the display industry," Han said in the statement. "LG Display is determined to become the leader in the fast-growing OLED market through timely investments to maximize efficiency."

Fast-Expanding Market

The Pixel smartphones, designed an built by Google, were launched in October as the company's replacement for its previous in-house Android brand, the Nexus. Google CEO Sundar Pichai (pictured above) described the Pixel and Pixel XL as ushering in an era for mobile devices led by artificial intelligence.

The premium 5-inch Pixel and 5.5-inch Pixel XL currently feature AMOLED displays and have been compared favorably by many reviewers to Apple's iPhones. Google's phones are the first to be released with the company's Google Assistant AI technology built in.

LG Display's plastic OLED technology for smartphones "enables the differentiated design values such as bendable, foldable and rollable. It is also 60 [percent lighter] than the glass to be more portable and unbreakable as it is not easily broken when dropped," according to the company.

Samsung and LG Display are currently the leading manufacturers of flexible screen displays, and both have demonstrated the technology's use in prototype devices such as rollable video screens. Citing research from IHS DisplaySearch, LG Display last year said the 416 million flexible OLED devices could ship by 2020, compared to 59 million last year.