When Apple revealed iPhone 3G, it did not present a special feature concerning display technology. Since Apple used the iPod Touch’s 3.54-inch sized panel as a display platform, most of the display makers were able to meet the requirements of Apple regarding the specifications.
These included the transflective mode, reducing dead space to minimal, reducing power consumption and other requirements that were obvious for the leading edge technology companies during that time, but actually were factors lagging behind when compared with the technology already applied in the Japanese mobile handsets or the so called Mobile Internet Devices (MID).
But when the Request for Quotation (RFQ) of iPhone 4 was revealed, the display manufacturers were confused. Apple that had been using the resolution level of 133ppi, was requesting the resolution of 326ppi while at the same time designating IPS as the compulsory specifications for display mode. Apple used to prefer transflective display but officially abandoned it and announced that it will apply IPS instead.
By requesting the resolution of 326ppi and to examine it with display sizes ranging from 3.54, 4.0, 4.3-inches, at that time, none of the companies were able to know Apple’s exact intention. At the end, Apple selected 2 companies as its suppliers and kept it strictly confidential.
Apple had a clear strategy and made preparations for a long time. Apple wanted to control the display technology and create a unique technology brand of its own.
When Apple started to plan “Retina Display”, among the mobile display manufacturers, the influence of Sharp and Samsung was significant. These companies were suppliers, but they were not easy to control for Apple as a customer. Apple wanted to maintain leadership in technology, not controlled by Sharp and Samsung.
The most representative example is that of IPS. Samsung and Sharp both belong to the VA camp, therefore they could not supply the IPS panel preferred by Apple. Apple wanted a high-resolution display with IPS mode and this resulted in the search for a company that could enable LTPS + IPS.
Apple created an even more aggressive strategy. It secured production capacity by direct investment in LG Display. At the same time, it conducted in-direct investment in Toshiba Mobile Display (TMD) via Toshiba’s NAND Flash and let TMD produce more IPS panels, thus secured the needed production capacity.