- Apple is preparing to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of its first iPhone by launching two new upgrades and a redesigned headset, but supply chain problems may delay the launch, Bloomberg reported Tuesday.
- In particular, Bloomberg notes there may be a shortage of organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens, which are essential for modern smartphone technology. A month or two delay is unlikely to affect Apple, yet it's rare that the technology superstar finds itself on the short end of the supply chain.
- Apple's OLED supplier, Samsung Display, seemingly does not have enough to supply the iPhone and its own parent company, which is rolling out the competing Samsung S8 product line this year.
Much has been written about Samsung's curious relationship with Apple, but it is unlikely the shortage is deliberate as the Samsung OLED supplier and phone-making subsidiary operate independently.
However, supplier-buyer relations may have come into play as, when faced with a shortage condition, suppliers must often work with and prioritize buyers to mitigate losses. As a state-owned South Korean conglomerate, Samsung is known to keep a tight control on its supply chain, so it would be unsurprising if the standard was to prioritize the Korean company's smartphones.
That was a risk Apple accepted when signing contracts with its rival's upstream supplier. However, Apple is earning a reputation as a bit of a supply chain bully. Between dropping Imagination Technologies amidst an alleged desire to make its own graphics-capable chips to its current fight with Qualcomm over intellectual property and pricing, the proliferation of Apple-generated conflicts seems to be growing.
Yet, within the supply chain, a collaborative rather than combative relationship between manufacturers and suppliers is believed to be most effective. Shared goals, equal profits, and even mutual strategizing can bring big benefits to both.
Any company dependent on a single buyer takes on significant risk each contract, greater partnership may help mitigate this risk. Or, lone wolves like Apple could continue to alienate suppliers and risk further disruptions when non-dependent suppliers choose other priorities.