Apple is feeling bullish about smartphone displays in 2013Chase Bonar - Contributing Editor
It makes complete sense that Apple would believe their devices are superior compared to the competition. It's an atmosphere harbored by Steve Jobs himself and duly earned. Yet Apple under the direction of CEO Tim Cook has been much less exciting. It's been polarizing. To say Apple has innovated without Steve Jobs would amass a barrage of doubters. And to say they're still leading the mobile industry might even get laughed at.
And laughter is my reaction to Tim Cook's recent quote about OLED display technology.
Cook told investors at a meeting hosted by Goldman Sachs this past Tuesday that the color saturation of OLED displays is "awful." He went on to say "you should really think twice before you depend on the color from an OLED display."
His argument that accurate color representation isn't a forte of OLED displays is valid. You wouldn't have to travel too far to find someone who agrees with that. Organic light-emitting diode displays produce colors that are often a misrepresentation of their true hue. You'd use words like "pop" and "vivid" to describe an OLED panel. However, what you gain with an OLED display is usually worth the trade-off. The result is deep blacks and high contrast levels that make images blast into your retina. With the brightness maximized, colors literally burn into the display all the while using less power.
My main gripe with Cook's opinion that OLED displays are awful is that many disagree. To say his opinion is completely off-target would be an understatement. When your main competitor is Samsung who conveniently makes 90% of the world's AMOLED panels, you'd think Cook meant something else entirely when he called them "awful." It's not a coincidence that Samsung's Galaxy S IV will showcase a 4.99-inch 1080p AMOLED display in the coming months. To top it off, AMOLED displays are supposed to be on 50% of all cell phones by the year 2014, and by 2015 they will become the world's main TV panel technology.
Clearly, OLED panels are here to stay.
It's this sort of comment that has got many people thinking just what Apple might be doing in the smartphone market these days. If they cannot acknowledge the success of new technology, then what real good is a stagnant device that rests on six year-old laurels?
There's no doubt that Apple's devices are groundbreaking. Whether you have the original iPhone or the new iPad, Apple has defined multiple markets with their successes. But from Apple's perspective, it must be getting exhausting to prove it, and especially exhausting to prove their iPhone 5's comparatively small 4-inch Retina display is truly magical.
So, what exactly does a CEO do after insulting their main competitor, the future of the smartphone industry, and the very near future of the TV industry, all at once?
Defend their products, of course.
"Whereas many companies compete to get the highest specs on their devices, Apple sweats every little detail," says Cook. He went on to say that he thinks Apple's devices have the "best display" on the market. Cook is finally starting to sound like Steve Jobs.
While Cook's opinion may be in line with some opinions of OLED displays, it's not his opinion that matters. Apple invented the smartphone market. They invented the tablet market. They continue to push the boundaries of what an app ecosystem can be. So, if we aren't staring straight at a compliment to OLED displays, then I don't know how else Cook can say it.
We have seen Jobs defend a product by attacking competing device's technologies. It's classic Apple marketing and it's not new. Soon after releasing such a blasphemous opinion that garners attention just like this editorial aims to, Jobs would then release his own "superior" version of the technology and it would immediately be acceptable, magical, and revolutionary.
Tim Cook's opinion that OLED displays are "awful" signifies a shift in Apple's offense. Under the reign of Steve Jobs, Apple rarely acknowledged that they even had competition, but when he did it never went unnoticed.
If this isn't a step in a new direction for Apple's marketing strategy post-Steve Jobs, I'm not sure what is.
It comes as no surprise that Cook feels the need to address the most popular TV-technology at CES 2013 and the future of mobile devices to come, all at once. It's just in time for Apple to innovate. Some might say they're simply defending their Retina display and reassuring investors that Apple's display offers superior image quality. But I'm more inclined to believe that Apple is about to release a device using an OLED panel to call their own. The only questions left are what they'll call it when they invent it, and what it'll end up on. iWatch with a curved display? The infamous iTV? What about an iGlass?
Reader! What are your thoughts on Tim Cook's opinion of all OLED displays? Is it mere coincidence the Samsung Galaxy S IV will offer a 4.99-inch 1080p panel? Was it a calculated comment towards their rivals? What iDevice do you think Apple would put an OLED panel on? Let me know how you feel about Apple and their comparatively slow innovation in the comments below!