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Report: Apple to begin shifting iPhone displays from LCD to OLED in 2018

OLED display

Apple Watch benefits from deeper blacks and greater energy efficiency thanks to OLED technology

Apple is expected to begin shifting iPhones from LCD displays to improved OLED screens starting in 2018, according to Nikkei Asian Review. Currently the display technology is only used by Apple to produce Apple Watch displays while iPhones and iPads use older LCD technology. OLED benefits from greater contrast levels and much deeper blacks as the display only illuminates to present color. This offers energy efficiency that leads to improved battery life compared lighting up the entire display each time. Nikkei claims that Apple has notified its suppliers that it wants to move to OLED iPhones in 2018, but adds that a mix of LCD and OLED iPhones are expected initially due to iPhone demand and OLED production limitations. The report also says Apple is weighing how well OLED displays hold up over time versus LCD displays before committing to the switch. Both Samsung and LG, which currently produce OLED panels, are expected to be primary suppliers of OLEDs for iPhones, which would negatively impact current LDC display partners Sharp and Japan Display.

The report follows a recent research note from reliable supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI, which similarly concluded that Apple will not be switching from LCD to OLED displays in iPhones in 2016 or 2017. KGI noted that iPhone manufacturer Foxconn has invested $4 billion into a new LCD display plant, and low yield rates currently prevent Apple from making the jump any time soon.

Given Apple’s tick-tock behavior of introducing redesigned iPhone models one year, then improving on that design with advanced hardware the following year, the two reports suggest LCD screens will stick around for the next couple of iPhone 7 models, then possibly be replaced by OLED screens for the iPhone 8 or possibly iPhone 8s at the earliest. It’s also worth keeping in mind that OLED rumors have been brewing for a while now, and plans could change over the next several years based on a number of factors.

The iOS interface would also likely need to shift from a mostly white to a black-based version design similar to Apple Watch for iPhones to benefit from the energy efficiency gains. We know Apple’s Design chief Jony Ive would like to make the switch, however, based on comments comparing the “old” iPhone display on current models to that of the Apple Watch in an interview earlier this year.

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  1. rnc - 7 years ago

    I don’t trust those.

    2018 is too late to jump. Apple has been investing in microLED, which will have more advantages than LCDs and OLEDs, and will permit things that LCDs and OLEDS can’t do, like transparent displays, brighter, more efficient, etc…

    Also, OLED is not always more efficient than LCD, LCDs are more efficient with brighter images, while OLEDs are more efficient in darker images. Since most of the WWW has bright backgrounds…

    • Rich Davis (@RichDavis9) - 7 years ago

      So you think microLED is going to be better than both LCD and OLEDs?

      The problem that Apple has to deal with is making whatever they want to use in large quantities. If microLED is new, it may take them a few years to get that technology to the point where they can build them fast enough and in large enough quantity while also affordable. they have to consider every aspect of a new technology before they can fully embrace it.

      We all know, or at least of us will admit, that OLED technology hasn’t been that great over time. Some people fail to admit or remember the problems with earlier OLED and that they didn’t hold their color balance well over time. They look great initially, but not after a couple of years. due to screen burn in problems with older TVs, I”m shocked that the smartphone industry that uses OLEDs avoided getting sued over the crap screens they were selling and why the industry widely ignored what we could plainly see. I saw people with samsung phones where it had a green tint to the screen and people put up with that? Oh well.

      • dcperin - 7 years ago

        That’s interesting. I guess I’ve never paid attention a couple years later. I switch phones so fast it wouldn’t be relevant to me, but I’m not everyone. But like my post said, an OLED out of the box beats anything iP has ever put out. Stunning display.

      • Charlie Diez - 7 years ago

        First when you are not an expert… and when your opinion doesnt include the facts….dont say “we all know” …OLED is far superior to any IPS LCD screen…early on their were issues RGB Oleds and their blue OLED lifespan…(around 15,000 hours) at 4 hours a day thats 10.27 years…LG doesnt use this tech for their TVs they use White OLEDs it mitigated the blue OLED problem…and they are the sole holder of the patent…(bought from Kodak) Active Matrix OLED are what Samsung makes…and are good for small screens…the yield is not good for large screens…Notice that LG is the only manufacturer making large screen TVs with OLED…now you know why…their cost and yield is better…and thats why Sony pulled out of the business…back to phones …that “weakness” of RGB OLEDS is never realized…who keeps their phone 10 years…if you bought the original iphone on its first day of availability it would be 8.5 years old…screen burn in is wildly exaggerated…not nearly like the old plasma tech…since then their are new PCOLED tech that has been patented and has a lifspan of 300,000 hours

        Widely ignored??? your thoughts?

      • Aaron Loy - 7 years ago

        OLEDs have been pushed by Samsung, which is the company that brainwashed the world into thinking that LED TVs are not LCD TVs and that the LEDs effects picture quality.

        So, if you ask me, it’s “what else were you expecting”?

  2. dcperin - 7 years ago

    2018 seems too long. As much as I love my apple products, this is a spot Samsung and other Android’s have the clear advantage. Look at an iP and GS6 display beside each other and it’s not even a contest. The display on the Galaxy line are beautiful. But the iPhone is better in other areas that trump that, imo..

  3. Jake Becker - 7 years ago

    In 2018 9to5Mac will have articles like “Opinion: Do we need to evolve past the cell phone?”

  4. Battery capacity in the Watch is extremely tight, hence the UI with pitch black backgrounds. iOS has pure white backgrounds and almost white translucent UI bars for many reasons, so using OLED wouldn’t make sense if saving battery is the primary objective. However, now that OLED is as bright and color accurate as LCD (which it wasn’t for many years), and has great advantages over IPS LCD (no viewing angle issues, no response time, thinner and real blacks), it DOES make sense.

    Other reasons:

    -Jony wants some magic in the displays, especially with those 3D Touch fishes on black backgrounds on every new iPhone

    -consistency with Watch and later on Apple’s larger screens (just like the current consistency in LED-lit, IPS LCD panels with retina resolution and sRGB calibration).

    • In addition: I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw OLED in the iPhone 7 (2016) already.
      1. Apple often debuts new screen tech first in iPhones
      2. Apple doesn’t want to stretch the transition to OLED too much
      3. Each new major iPhone design gets a significant screen upgrade. LCD won’t be able to progress much this time. iPhone 4 (retina, IPS) and iPhone 5 (100% color gamut) were the big upgrades. iPhone 6 was mainly bigger and pushed the contrast slightly higher, but wasn’t as much of an upgrade compared to previous display upgrades.

      • Aaron Loy - 7 years ago

        the problem is manufacturing capacity. can existing + upcoming investments in manufacturing oLEDs cope?

  5. Smigit - 7 years ago

    “The iOS interface would also likely need to shift from a mostly white to a black-based version design similar to Apple Watch for iPhones to benefit from the energy efficiency gains.”

    Realistically it’s the apps that need updating. If you spend most of your time in safari, Facebook, running a games and the like then a black OS base won’t matter a lot since you likely will be running things that are still predominately white background oriented.

    In any event, unless the battery life blows out to a full two days as a result of the change, I can see Apple keeping its brighter colour pallet and being happy with the fact the phones still get a typical days battery life. If they wanted a black theme for iOS they could implement it right now or have done so when they redid iOS. The fact they didn’t go to a black theme makes me hesitant to assume they’d go that way as the screen technology changes unless there’s a huge functional benefit to doing so.

    The watch makes more ends since its battery life was already very limited. The phones fare much better, even with LCDs

    • Smigit - 7 years ago

      To add, the watch is far more orientated towards using Gleams to quickly glance at info without navigating into apps and the like. Again that makes a mostly black display with a bit of text more appropriate than the often highly graphical iOS interface, and by virtue allows Apple to exploit the OLED display better.

  6. Paul Andrew Dixon - 7 years ago

    Well if it is anything like when sony switched back from OLED to LCD on the psvita to save money, there was a clear difference in quality of the image and the contrast — so color-wise, it would be a good move… but power efficiency and how long they last could be an issue.

  7. Will OLED not look like children’s toy by then? I’m not sure.

  8. lsratdownload - 7 years ago

    Zac, do you and your colleagues have an intelligence regarding whether Apple will switch to OLED before 2018 for the iPad Mini / Air / Pro, MacBook / Air / Pro, iMac and standalone (currently Thunderbolt, perhaps in future superMHL?) Display?

    It’s good to see that the latest iMacs showcase Apple’s flagship display across their product categories with a brightness of 480 nits, 100% coverage of DCI-P3 colo(u)r gamut and 10-bit colo(u)r depth, and I speculate that the 2016 Galaxy Note 6, let alone the 2018 Galaxy Note 8 that will be competing against the 2018 iPhone 8, will feature a 3840×2160 OLED display at 600 nits with HDR.

    Therefore, whilst support for various HDR standards is a given, I’d love to see Apple’s switch to OLED across their product range to also bring a brightness of 800 or even 1000 nits, cover a sizeable percentage of BT.2020 and possibly even 12-bit colo(u)r depth and 4:4:4 no luma:chroma sampling. Given that Panasonic’s 20″ FZ-Y1 tablet range has an aspect ratio of 15:10 / 3:2 and a resolution of 3840×2560, then assuming that Apple keep the same 4:3 aspect ratio for the 12.9″ iPad Pro it would be wonderful to see a future iteration really mark its mark with a resolution increase from 2732×2048 to 4098×3072.

  9. HCQS_US (@HCQS_US) - 7 years ago

    Here are the differences between lcd and oled:
    1. OLED does not require a backlight while LCDs do.
    2. OLED displays consume less power than LCD displays.
    3. OLEDs have better contrast compared to LCDs.
    4. LCDs cost more to manufacture than OLEDs due to the printable nature of OLEDs.
    5. Printing techniques could lead to more applications for OLEDs than LCDs.
    6. OLED displays have a significantly lower lifetime than LCD displays.
    For more news about iPhone lcd you can check at:

  10. Jack Lam - 7 years ago

    I think Mac will become better and better. I have my suggestion of making bigger storage capacity and more expansion port, exansion port. I know there is a product which use in one single product with high-capacity STORAGE, Wired LAN, additional USB ports and high-quality DAC. I checked in Kickstarter.


Avatar for Zac Hall Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news for 9to5Mac and hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour and 9to5Mac Watch Time podcasts.