A trade war could derail the iPhone 11 – and it isn’t the one you’d think

Apple could find itself smack-bang in the middle of a new trade war between Japan and South Korea – which could potentially affect the launch of the entire 2019 range of new iPhones, including the iPhone 11. iPhones use a pivotal component which is usually exported from Japan to South Korea.

As relations between US and China remain extremely frosty – although there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel regarding the Huawei Android ban – a new trade war between Japan and South Korea is threatening phone manufacturers’ production processes.

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According to Reuters, Apple could be affected by the new restrictions on fluorinated polyimide, resist, and high-purity hydrogen fluoride. The materials are used in the development of phone displays and chips by South Korean manufacturers LG and Samsung. 

LG and Samsung currently produce OLED panels for the iPhone – meaning major issues are certainly possible – with the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Max both expected to feature OLED screens. 

The restrictions will come into force on July 4. When the restrictions are in place, South Korea will have to apply to Japan for permission to export certain tech components. The process to apply can take up to 90 days but the Japanese government does current prioritise the export of these materials.

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Apple really doesn’t have anywhere else to turn to get out of this pickle, either. Japan currently produces 90% of the fluorinated polyimide and resist in the world. Apple also recently invested in a Japanese display manufacturer – but it is not expected to be able to fulfil the OLED demand required for the 2019 iPhone range.

This new trade war began because of disputes between the two countries over World War II-related compensation. A South Korean court ruled Japanese company Nippon Steel must compensate South Koreans who were forced to work for the company during the war. Japan claims the issue has already been resolved.

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