The relationship between Samsung and Apple is complicated. Even as the two tech giants continue to sue each other around the globe, parts reseller iSuppli discovered that Samsung is the sole manufacturer of the gorgeous Retina Display screen for the new iPad, Apple's blockbuster third-generation tablet unveiled on March 7 in San Francisco, which goes on sale this Friday, March 16.
The display specifications on the new iPad are very demanding in terms of the very high resolution, said Vinita Jakhanwal, a senior manager at iSuppli, in an email to Bloomberg. Achieving this high resolution without compromising on the power consumption and brightness and maintaining Apple's quality standards are supposedly proving to be a challenge for LG Display and Sharp.
The latest news means that Samsung, which is the world's leading manufacturer of flat panels, currently supplies both the screens and the chips that power Apple's iPad, as well as the A4 and A5 chips that power the iPhone 4 and 4S.
Spokespeople for Apple, Samsung, LG Display and Sharp declined to comment.
Apple continues to compete with Samsung in the tablet world, as the new iPad set to go on sale Friday looks to show up Samsung's latest offering, the 10.1 Galaxy Tab. But besides battles over the best gadget, Samsung and Apple are constantly engaged in legal dogfights all over the world, suing each other over alleged patent infringements and violations.
Yet, despite their squabbles, Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple and Seoul, South Korea-based Samsung are inherently linked, mainly because most of Apple's key components are sourced from the Samsung's factories. The A5 chips found in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S are currently built in a 1.6 million square-foot factory in Texas owned by Samsung, which spans the size of nine football fields. The new factory reportedly cost the company a whopping $3.6 billion to build, but the Austin Chamber of Commerce said Samsung's total investment was actually much higher than that, falling just short of about $9 billion. It is the largest foreign investment in the state of Texas.
Samsung originally began supplying Apple with A5 processors after the company expanded the size of its factory to include a production line for making logic chips. Besides Samsung, Apple has traditionally tapped Foxconn's China and Taiwan factories to assemble logic chips for the iPad and iPhone.
Apple had reportedly tapped Hitachi and Sony to build the 4-inch LCD panels of the company's next iPhone, presumably called the iPhone 5, but if the new iPad is a success, there's an excellent chance Apple will turn to Samsung to help build the next-gen iPhone. Samsung knows how to build big, beautiful 4-inch screens: Arguably the company's best offering, the Galaxy S II, features a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display. Just imagine what Samsung could do with Apple's Retina technology.
While Samsung is currently the sole maker of the new iPad panels, Apple will soon diversify its sources for the displays.
Since the relationship between Apple and Samsung isn't great these days, Apple would want to get shipments elsewhere as well, said Kang Yoon Hum, an analyst at NH Investment & Securities Co., based in Seoul.
LG Display, which is Apple's largest vendor of iPhone displays and older-model iPad displays, will reportedly start shipping screen panels for the new iPad -- along with Sharp -- starting in April, according to Jakhanwal.
The new iPad features improved front and rear cameras, the same 10-hour battery life, and a dual-LED backlit system that powers the 2048 x 1536 true HD Retina Display, which displays 3.1 million total pixels. The display features 44 percent greater saturation of colors than its predecessor, and includes one million more pixels than an HDTV. Apple's dual-LED solution makes the iPad's screen noticeably brighter, but it also apparently solved several puzzling issues with heat dissipation and battery consumption.
Luckily, third-party developers don't need to alter their apps to accommodate the iPad's Retina Display. Apple's new device automatically scales up existing apps to high-resolution, thankfully.