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Wednesday, May 08, 2013 2:00am
Rumor: Sharp to begin display ramp-up for iPhone 5S next month
As talk of the next iPhone model -- which will arrive in June, July, or August depending on which supplier report one wants to believe -- heats up, rumors and reports from component suppliers and other sources often contradict each other on timetables. This confusion reinforces Apple CEO Tim Cook's statements that any one bit of information -- even if true -- was unlikely to provide the proper context given Apple's complex supply chain. That said, a source in Japan has reported that Sharp will be ramping up display units for the iPhone 5S next month.

If true, it could suggest that the iPhone 5S -- the presumed name of the next model of iPhone -- would be unlikely to debut or be announced on or around the WWDC convention in mid-June, and would put the delivery of units in sufficient quantity to meet worldwide demand in July in some doubt. At the same time, Sharp may be only a secondary supplier of displays for the next iPhone as it is currently is for other Apple products such as the iPad. It could also be that Sharp may instead be supplying displays for the rumored "lower-cost" iPhone aimed at prepaid markets and said to be debuting in the fall (though some rumors have both debuting together).

Sharp, which has been struggling financially since the steep decline of demand for HDTV screens, has been repositioning its factories to be used for manufacture of other displays such as those used in notebooks, tablets and smartphones. Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn has invested heavily in the Japanese-based company with a view to leveraging the company's facilities and technology in displays. Sharp also makes displays for other companies, including Samsung -- which has just become Sharp's largest foreign investor.

According to the latest rumor, Sharp will utilize its Kameyama factory to manufacture the displays. The plant reported is down 40 percent from its LCD capacity of 600 million units per month because of the general decline in LCD demand, reports Japan's Kodawarisan. The iPhone 5S is thought to using the same size and resolution screen as is currently seen in the iPhone 5, which may help to speed the ramp-up to full production.

In any case, others will also make displays for the next iPhone in addition to Sharp. According to the Japanese report, a new supplier called Japan Display (which combines the display manufacturing portions of several companies, including Sony, Hitachi, LG and Toshiba) will also be one of the component producers and is already in production with screens for the iPhone 5S.

Apple has not said anything about a future iPhone model, of course, but one is expected at some point before the holiday buying season. Last year's iPhone 5 was considered quite late, debuting in early October; previous models were often introduced in June. Rumors claim that the new iPhone may include a fingerprint sensor built into the home button, a faster processor and graphics system, and a freshened overhaul of the operating system and other new features in iOS 7. The new version of iOS, along with the next version of OS X, will be previewed at the WWDC.