What Verizon's Incredible Growing Pains Mean

Hate to say that I told you so, but ... I told you so!

Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) Wireless can't keep the Droid Incredible smartphone on store shelves. Fresh shipments sell out in a matter of hours across the country, and Verizon's online store now promises to deliver your Incredible by June 7. The Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Android phone is technically impressive and beautifully designed, pushing up demand for the model. Unless you're dead-set on a slide-out keyboard, the Motorola (NYSE: MOT  ) Droid looks ancient next to its younger cousin.

If that was the whole story, Verizon would simply have a huge hit on its hands -- a problem any business would be happy to have. But the Droid Incredible also sports an OLED screen, and that component is in desperately short supply. Verizon now says that it sold 100,000 units of the Incredible in the first two days on the market, and shipping dates have been inching backward ever since. Samsung simply can't make enough OLED screens to keep the supply of Incredibles in step with demand. That's far less of a desirable difficulty.

That will eventually change, but not before the Droid Incredible is yesterday's news. Leading OLED screen builders Samsung and LG Display (NYSE: LPL  ) are expanding their manufacturing facilities at breakneck speed, but the Incredible shortage proves that OLED screens are not even close to being ready for certain types of products. Rumormongers would put OLED screens on the next-generation Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPhone or iPod, but those gadgets will sell by the millions very quickly. A trickle of OLED screens won't be enough to satisfy that demand.

Likewise, larger screens take more manufacturing muscle since every OLED display is cut from a limited square footage of manufactured materials. Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) has a tiny OLED TV on the market, but don't expect volume produced 27-inch televisions or even 17-inch computer monitors until the manufacturers get their ducks in a row. That will take at least a couple of years.

We are watching the growing pains of a new technology. Even though OLED screens command a price premium over older LCD screens, their beautiful visuals and low power draws make OLED a selling point. Samsung and LG will have their order books full for the next few years, no matter how quickly they build out those factories. And both of them send royalty payments to longtime Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation Universal Display (Nasdaq: PANL  ) for every active matrix OLED screen they sell. You do the math.

Would you wait a month for an OLED screen or just settle for a plain old LCD-based phone that could be delivered today? Discuss in the comments below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Google and Universal Display, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. Google and Universal Display are Motley Fool Rule Breakers picks. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.


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  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2010, at 5:51 PM, sidneyleejohnson wrote:

    Of course we would wait a month for a better screen. Phones are a fashion statement; you just aren't cool without an OLED. :)

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