Apple And ‘iPhone 8’ Late To Samsung’s OLED Party: Should You Care? I Asked Around – Forbes
Apple is late to the OLED display party. And the rumored OLED “iPhone 8” will be about six months behind Samsung’s redesigned Galaxy S8. Will it matter in the end? I asked around.
So far, Samsung’s longstanding use (since 2010) of flat and curved OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays on its Galaxy series has hardly brought Apple to its knees. In fact, Gartner reported in February that Apple edged out Samsung in global smartphone shipments in the fourth quarter — the first time since the fourth quarter of 2014.
Apple has no OLED iPhones and currently uses OLED displays only on its Apple Watch Series.
Consumers really don’t care: “I don’t think the average consumer understands LCD Vs. OLED so I don’t think it will hurt them,” Ryan Reith, an analyst at IDC, told me this week in an email exchange. Reith believes Apple will spin the OLED iPhone as something uniquely Apple. “My guess is Apple will put its magical marketing spin in its OLED iPhone (like they did with the term ‘Retina’) in order to justify the upsell, but overall I don’t think Samsung having OLED across their portfolio will hurt Apple,” he added.
Reith continues. “If rumors are true that the OLED iPhone will have a higher price point then I think the supply [Apple has] access to will be ample for 2017/2018.”
Even if Apple goes with a “flat” OLED display, it should be OK: “Samsung will obviously have a market lead on curved AMOLED displays and they will stake their ground with a uniquely Samsung design,” Wayne Lam, an analyst at IHS Markit, told me in an email. “Apple will instead focus on a brand new iPhone experience…we anticipate that Apple will adopt a flat implementation of OLED design on their special model.”* For the record, Samsung uses curved OLED displays on the Galaxy S7 Edge and the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7. And will very likely do the same on the upcoming Galaxy S8 and S8+.
Lam continued. “Our current position is that Apple will have their annual update to the existing iPhone line up with a 7S and 7S Plus but also have ‘one more thing’ this year with a 10th anniversary design OLED iPhone…[that] will be offered as a limited edition product but going into 2018.”
Lam also expects a tweaked aspect ratio on the OLED iPhone (the ratio of the display’s width to the height) to “take advantage of higher [display] coverage area of the device.” He expects this “new design language…to become the design trend for 2017.
Not all OLED displays will be equal: “The Galaxy S8 will undoubtedly have Samsung’s latest and best OLED displays,” Raymond Soneira, a display expert and president of DisplayMate Technologies, told me in an email. “Other 2017 OLED smartphones may not have access to the latest and best Samsung OLED displays due to the product development lead times, production issues, and quite possibly for strategic competitive reasons.”
Apple will eventually get OLEDs from suppliers other than Samsung: Let’s say consumers do begin to care about curved OLEDs because of unforeseen reasons (for example, OLED phones with edge-to-edge virtually bezel-less displays become the new must-have chic), Apple is expected to eventually find suppliers other than Samsung.
Soneira says that while Samsung is the undisputed smartphone OLED supplier in 2017 and beyond, suppliers such as BOE and LG are working toward high-quality smartphone OLED production. “Like all major smartphone manufacturers, Apple is undoubtedly testing displays from as many potential future OLED suppliers as possible,” Soneira said.
And IHS Markit’s Lam adds that “it will take some time for Apple’s supply chain to snap into place, already we’re hearing BOE is starting up OLED production as well as traditional Apple sources JDI and LG looking into getting their OLED production up and running. Until Apple can secure a reliable source of OLED displays outside of Samsung, don’t expect the new iPhone design to overtake existing iPhone designs,” he said.
*Soneira believes Apple will go with a curved OLED display.