It is an interesting time to be a follower of Apple and its iconic iPhone series, as reports in the last couple of weeks have indicated that the corporation is intending to freshen up its iPhone range. Release indicating that Apple will release an iPhone Pro in 2016 have been rife in the media, and this new device is expected to essentially be a high-spec version of the successful Plus series. Whether the iPhone Pro will significantly diverge in specs from the iPhone 7 is not known yet, but it does mean that the capabilities of the iPhone 7 will be placed even more squarely under the microscope.
However, another report from China this week suggests that Apple is already making plans for the iPhone 8. This is very much seems like a speck on the horizon at present, considering that we are still experiencing the sixth iPhone generation, and awaiting the release of the iPhone 7 later this year.
iPhone 8 OLED plans
But Chinese sources are suggesting that Apple is planning to include OLED display technology within a new iPhone as early as 2017. Previous reports have suggested that the consumer electronics giant is indeed experimenting with this screen technology that has been included in recent Samsung handsets, and it seems that it could be set for inclusion in the iPhone 8.
When one uses the term iPhone 8, it is important to understand that this is simply a moniker for the iPhone that Apple releases in 2017. It is not certain that Apple will indeed name this handset the iPhone 8, although if it differs significantly from the existing iPhone 7 generation then this could be a distinct possibility. But this smartphone could also be branded as an iPhone 7s, but what is important to understand is that Apple is intending to include OLED regardless of its branding.
According to Chinese sources, Apple has already been putting the feelers out with the likes of Samsung and LG to gauge the feasibility of including this screen technology in the next generation iPhone 8. Apple has been particularly focusing on the potential of ramping up OLED display production levels with the aim of introducing the technology when the iPhone releases in 2017.
Early records relating to these negotiations suggest that the initial discussions have been constructive, and Apple is ready to sign up to a deal with the two Korean companies, following talks that began back in December. It is believed that the contract over OLED technology could be worth in excess of $12 billion, and that Apple will sign this agreement on the proviso that it can indeed include OLED in the iPhone 8 in 2017.
Apple is seemingly enthusiastic about the prospect of producing an OLED-based iPhone as soon as possible, as the manufacturer believes that the public perception is that this technology is superior to that which Apple is currently utilizing in the iPhone series. The decision is part of a broader plan to deliver an improved viewing experience in the iPhone, and also to reinvigorate sales of the hardware following its own admission that the iPhone will shift less units during 2016 than last year.
It will be a major challenge for Apple to provoke interest in new iPhone releases going forward, as the returns from smartphones are naturally diminishing as the technology becomes difficult to update distinctively. When the first iPhone hit the market, there is no doubt that it was a jaw-dropping proposition, but it is increasingly difficult for even a consumer electronics giant such as Apple to wow consumers with the iPhone series.
Aside from the visual benefits of OLED integration, the technology also has the potential to add marketing appeal to a device. OLED display panels are often thinner than those using LCD technology, meaning that Apple can continue to reduce the thickness of the iPhone range; something that has clearly been an aim of the corporation since day one.
Another major advantage of OLED is that it tends to be less greedy with battery power than the existing LCD technology, which would be a very attractive proposition for a corporation that has been criticized regarding the battery life of its products.
Nonetheless, despite the latest reports from China, some analysts remain sceptical about the prospect of this technology being included in the Apple range quite as soon as 2017. Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities suggests that we will not see OLED included in the iPhone range until 2019, which could mean that the technology will ultimately be earmarked for the iPhone 9!
Meanwhile, reports have indicated recently that the inclusion of OLED technology is not the only visual element of the smartphone series that Apple is considering tinkering with. A recent patent from the Cupertino-based corporation suggests that Apple may look to introduce flexible screen technology in future iPhone devices, as well as also including it in the iPad range.
Flexible Electronic Devices
The patent in question is entitled Flexible Electronic Devices, and it seemingly enables not merely devices that include flexible screens, but also flexible internal components. This would potentially enable a future iPhone device to be manipulated in methods that are currently impossible, and this certainly makes for an interesting concept. Information included in the patent also suggests that technology which Apple will implement in the future will have the ability to sense in which way the device is being manipulated, and then react accordingly.
It is also notable that the patient specifically mentions a flexible OLED screen, suggesting that Apple is certainly contemplating integrating this technology into the iPhone range in the foreseeable future.
So it seems quite clear that Apple is intending to significantly shake up the display technology in the iPhone range, and it is also possible that Apple Watch technology and even in-car systems could also benefit from this leaked patent. Whether we will see this as early as the iPhone 8 remains open to debate, but it is clear that Apple is looking into the future with the way that it manufactures iPhone screens.