Apple currently uses LCD display technology for all of its iPhones but this appears to be changing next year with the rumored radically-new iPhone in 2017, following the iPhone 7’s smaller, iterative, design changes. Many reports have said that the next-generation iPhones, dubbed ‘iPhone 8’, will feature OLED displays for the first time. More indicators for this has come to light today with Bloomberg reporting that Apple is negotiating with Sharp to produce OLED panels for its phones.
Right now, the only Apple product to use OLED is the Apple Watch. OLEDs have markedly better contrast ratios than LCD as there is no backlight involved with OLED. Each individual pixel lights itself, so when black is displayed, the pixels literally turn off and emit no light at all. They also have significantly lower power drain when displaying black interface as most of the screen can be simply switched off, a trait that is exploited by the dark UI of the Apple Watch.
OLED displays offer incredibly good contrast ratios and low battery drain when displaying dark content (leading some rumors of a dark mode for iOS 11). It also generally makes for a thinner screen component compared to LCD displays because of the lack of backlight. All these traits are useful for the iPhone. OLED displays can also be flexibly curved, enabling design elements like having the screen wrap around the sides. Samsung does exactly this with its Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge devices.
Samsung, Apple’s closest competitor in the smartphone space, has used OLED displays on its Samsung Galaxy phones for many years. Supply constraints have seen Apple hold back on adopting OLED as the yields are far lower than LCD. However, it appears that 2017 is the year for OLED to be part of the iPhone.
The report says that Sharp will clinch the deal with Apple if it can promise enough ‘output capacity’. Earlier today, Sharp announced a significant >$500 million dollar investment into OLED display manufacturing but the benefits of this will not be seen until late 2018. In general, Apple likes to have multiplier companies supplying parts for its products as it reduces risk of yield bottlenecks and allows them to negotiate better prices, as one company is not in control of the entire supply chain for a particular component.
The iPhone 8 is currently pitted as a major redesign of the phone, following the iPhone 7’s samey design to iPhone 6s and iPhone 6. Apple is apparently targeting an ‘all-glass design’ with the home button and Touch ID sensor integrated into the display. Yesterday, KGI said that the device will not be all-glass due to technological limitations. They described a mixture of glass and stainless steel (harkening back to the iPhone 4 series).