As is common in the tech industry, Apple has poached a key employee from its main competitor in the mobile space. Specifically, Apple recently hired Soonho Ahn, Samsung's former senior vice president of its battery business (Samsung SDI), to serve as its own global head of battery development. This is no doubt part of a continued effort to be more self reliant.
Even though Apple and Samsung are fierce competitors in the mobile space, and are often embroiled in legal disputes with one another, the two companies are also business partners in a sense—Apple sources certain components of its popular iPhone handsets from Samsung, including in the past batteries and displays.
Prior to joining Apple last month, Soonho spent nearly four years at Samsung SDI in high level roles, including nine months as senior vice president of next generation batteries research and development.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Soonho was "in charge of new, improved anode and cathode materials, solid electrolytes, new functional electrolyte additives, coated separator membranes, [and] fast charge capability cell designs."
It is an interesting hire, though not really surprising. After all, it was around this time last year when Apple reportedly considered buying cobalt directly from miners in order to lower iPhone battery costs. Cobalt is a key ingredient in lithium-ion battery packs, which power Apple's iPhone devices.
Beyond the cost savings, Apple could be looking to innovate in this area as well. Apple came under fire for throttling iPhones when batteries degraded to a certain point, and as an olive branch to its customers, it subsequently offered to replace batteries at a reduced rate. That program recently ended, but proved hugely popular—Apple ended up replacing 11 million iPhone batteries last year.
This is not the only area that Apple is focusing on. The company is also reportedly looking to make its own displays, and has shown an interest in MicroLED technology.