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Apple may have found a way to make next year’s iPhone X successors much cheaper

Published Sep 28th, 2017 11:41AM EDT
iPhone 2018 Rumors
Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

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Apple unveiled three iPhones this year, including two “boring” updates of the now-traditional 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhone designs, and a brand new iPhone X that brings over a different type of screen technology. OLED displays make possible edge-to-edge phone designs, though the X also has an incredibly sophisticated facial recognition system that totally ruins said design.

A new report suggests that Apple may be looking to bring the iPhone X design to all its iPhones in the future, including the cheaper models, regardless of whether there’s enough OLED supply to go around.

For anyone who’s been following the OLED display saga, it’s no surprise to hear that everyone in the display business has been committing billions of dollars in investments for the sole purpose of securing iPhone business. Late to the OLED game pioneered by Samsung, Apple will make OLED screens great again and there are signs that more companies want to equip such devices on their main iPhone rivals.

However, Samsung, the only company that can meet Apple’s iPhone X requirements, can’t possibly make enough OLED screens for all the iPhones Apple sells each year. That’s why Apple is looking to secure OLED supply from LG and other companies in the future. Remember, these OLED screens are crucial for Apple’s all-screen design needs. But The Wall Street Journal says Apple is looking to use LCDs for similar designs.

Apple has apparently expressed interest in buying LCDs from Japan Display to be used in some of next year’s iPhones.

These aren’t your regular LCD screens that you see in other iPhones, but rather Full Active-branded displays. These display will account for 70% of JDI’s business in the fiscal year ending in March 2019, and it turns out Apple accounted for 54% of the company’s revenue in the year that ended this past March. Whatever Apple’s orders are for next year’s JDI screens, they should be significant.

How are they special? Well, they’ll let Apple significantly reduce bezels, thus enabling iPhone X-like designs for LCD devices:

In Full Active, the bezel or border space around each edge of the screen has been trimmed to 0.5 millimeters, the company says, compared with as much as several millimeters on older LCDs. Minatake Kashio, director of Tokyo-based consultancy Fomalhaut Techno Solutions, said current OLED smartphone panels have a bezel of about one millimeter.

It may not be as easy to cut an LCD screen’s corners like OLED for a perfect iPhone X-like design, but Full Active screens are what power all-screen devices like the new Mi Mix 2 from Xiaomi.

Using such a display on 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch LCD iPhones would allow Apple to significantly increase the screen-to-body ratio and add the Face ID “notch.” After all, TrueDepth is a camera technology that Apple will likely use in a variety of devices, not just this year’s iPhone X.

That said, it’s too early to guess how many new iPhones will launch in 2018. But it’s likely they won’t all have OLED displays. And if Apple does end up using JDI’s new Full Active screens in LCD iPhones, it’ll be able to offer iPhone X-like designs for a much cheaper price. After all, the OLED screen is the most expensive component in the iPhone X.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.