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iPhones will finally get the OLED screens they deserve

iPhone 7s Apple

Apple’s iPhones have long used LCD screen technology, which is great, if you like settling for second-best. OLED panels are lighter, look better, and can be curved into more interesting shapes. The best Android phones have been using them for years, and according to a report, iPhones due out in 2017 will be packing OLED panels.

A Bloomberg article cites a sudden spike in demand for screen-manufacturing technology as an indicator of suppliers preparing for a big increase in demand for OLED displays, and it doesn’t take much to connect the dots.

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Bloomberg specifically quotes Applied Materials Inc, a manufacturer of machines used in the production of displays. The equipment is going to Samsung, LG, Foxconn, and Sharp, all of whom are primary suppliers of displays to Apple. As Applied Materials CEO Gary Dickerson told Bloomberg, “We all know who is the leader in terms of mobile products.”

The increase in orders isn’t a blip: Applied saw orders of $700 million in the space of three months, close to what it would normally see in a year.

The timing is right for the new screens to make it into the 2017 iPhones. New machinery being ordered now would be in place early next year, ready for a production run of components to be assembled for a fall 2017 iPhone 7s release.

This report also dovetails perfectly with a previous Nikkei article, which claimed that Apple reached out to Samsung and LG about OLED displays in December 2015. The timeline sounds perfect: Apple reaches out a few months ago, the suppliers design new supply lines, and now start ordering the heavy machinery that will take months to manufacture and ship.

The most compelling part about this rumor isn’t the sales data: it’s that moving to OLED displays is an obvious move for Apple. Organic light-emitting diode displays have pixels that light themselves, without needing a backlight. That makes for displays that are thinner (no need for a separate light behind the screen), have more contrast, since only the necessary pixels will light up, and better battery life for the same reason.