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Apple now getting iPad Retina displays from LG too

Apple needs lots of displays for its new iPad. Problem is, the screens are not easy to make.

Icons look vibrant, detailed, and crisp on the new iPad's Retina Display, according to CNET Reviews.
Icons look 'vibrant, detailed, and crisp' on the new iPad's Retina Display, according to CNET Reviews.
Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Apple has begun to get additional supply of the new iPad's 9.7-inch Retina screen from LG Display, a NPD DisplaySearch analyst told CNET.

To date, Samsung has been the sole supplier of the 2,048x1,536 display, the new iPad's marquee feature.

"LGD (LG Display) is qualified. So in March they will ship a few hundred thousand units," said Richard Shim, an analyst at NPD DisplaySearch. "That is the typical cadence. You do a few hundred thousand units one month and then a few million after that," he said.

"And right now, Apple needs everything they can get," he added.

In a worst-case scenario, a crimp on the supply of displays could create serious order backlogs for Apple.

The problem is that Apple's stunning new display is not easy to make. The 9.7-inch screen boasts the resolution typically found on large 24-inch class desktop displays. And squeezes four times the pixels into the same screen real estate as compared to the iPad 2.

And even Apple hints at the manufacturing challenges. The company has stated publicly that because of the pixel density "signals can get crossed, colors become distorted and images get fuzzy. To solve this, we had to elevate the pixels onto a different plane and separate them from the signals." And the panel itself, to maintain brightness, has twice the number of LEDs compared with the iPad 2.

New iPad
New iPad. Apple

After Samsung and LGD, Sharp is next in line for volume production, Shim said. Though their status (i.e., their ability to supply relatively large numbers of the displays) is less clear at the moment, according to Shim.

"Once they start producing the panels there will be a lot of volume in a hurry," Shim added, as Sharp is making the screen in a cutting-edge "Gen 8" fabrication facility.

Separately, IHS iSuppli released a report today stating that the "three suppliers have been working hard to reach mass-volume production to meet demand from the launch of the new iPad...However, IHS believes it is likely that the volume shipments of the new iPad display are currently coming from Samsung."

LG Display and Sharp "are currently shipping displays in small quantities...[and] are expected to ramp up volume production of new iPad displays in April," iSuppli said.

Both iSuppli and DisplaySearch cite problems that Sharp has been having with manufacturing IGZO (indium gallium zinc oxide) displays. IGZO technology potentially offers more power-efficient displays, among other merits. "The company is experiencing manufacturing problems that could affect both the availability of displays for a full rollout of the new iPad, as well as the cost of the iPad displays," iSuppli said.

Correction at 3:35 p.m. PDT: LGD is shipping displays in March not February as originally stated. NPD DisplaySearch said it misstated the timing.