Apple kicked off the era of capacitive touchscreen smartphones, but its display technology has fallen a little behind in recent years. The AMOLED panels used by smartphone makers like Samsung can best Apple’s LCDs in every category, but Apple might be planning to play catch up with the iPhone 8. This device is increasingly rumored to be sporting a curved OLED display.
The Apple rumor mill has gotten plenty of things wrong over the years (remember that Apple TV set that never came out?). But iPhone rumors have been fairly solid. Apple makes relatively few models of iPhone, so it needs a lot of the same few components. That means plenty of movement in the supply chain that analysts can track. As Apple preps for the iPhone 8, component suppliers are amassing stockpiles of OLED parts. Specifically, recent reports point to Interflex, BH, and Samsung Electro-Mechanics as suppliers of the components, which will be used by Samsung Display to manufacture the panels used in the iPhone 8.
Samsung’s display manufacturing has provided most of the high-quality AMOLED panels in recent years. The alternative designs from firms like LG are still far behind. Compared with an LCD, Samsung’s latest AMOLED panels have much higher maximum brightness, and richer, more accurate colors. AMOLED screens have much faster refresh rates as well. AMOLED produces light from the pixels themselves, meaning no LED backlight assembly is needed. That reduces the thickness of the device, so maybe Apple can use the added space to put the headphone jack back? Okay, probably not. A legitimate upshot of this property is that black pixels are completely off and do not use power.
As for the curved aspect of the display, that’s just a way to combat Samsung. OLED panels are naturally flexible, so why not go for it? The curved screen has been working for Samsung. The Galaxy Note 7 (before its untimely death) was only available with a curved display. Samsung has been seeing significantly higher sales of the curved versions of its Galaxy S phones. In fact, it may not even make a flat version of the Galaxy S8. There’s really no functional reason to have a curved screen, but it looks nice.
The rumor mill points to Apple using the curved design to push the iPhone 8’s bezels to the absolute minimum. This has sometimes caused problems with palm rejection (i.e. phantom touches). Apple’s going to have to tackle that better than Samsung has. The iPhone 8 may also have a fingerprint reader and home button embedded in the display itself.
There may be a few designs for next year’s iPhone, one with the curved display and another more conventional. The leaks should pick up over the summer as early test devices are churned out.