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Apple Inc.'s Mysterious OLED iPhone Revealed

By Ashraf Eassa – Updated Nov 23, 2016 at 10:30AM

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This well-connected analyst makes sense of two conflicting sets of reports about Apple's next-generation OLED-packing iPhone.

For a while now, reliable rumors have suggested that Apple (AAPL 0.83%) plans to launch not two, but three new iPhone models next year. Those same rumors suggest Apple will put out two variants with traditional liquid crystal displays, or LCDs, with a third ultra-high-end version sporting a curved organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display.

Image source: Apple. 

Thanks to a new report from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo with KGI Securities, by way of MacRumors, we now have more information about this OLED-packing iPhone.

It'll have a large display, but...

Kuo acknowledges that there's an apparent disconnect between his prior report that the next iPhone lineup could feature a model with a 5.8-inch OLED display and his new comments claiming that the OLED iPhone could have a 5.1-inch to 5.2-inch display.

He has a good reconciliation: "We predict OLED iPhone will adopt a 5.7-5.8 [inch] flexible OLED panel," Kuo begins. "Nonetheless, for 'specific design purposes', the actual active area may be around 5.1-5.2 [inches]."

A large (curved) display in a small footprint? Sounds familiar

If the notion of a large display in a relatively small footprint sounds familiar, it's because that was one of the things that was quite nice about Samsung's (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF) Galaxy S7 Edge released earlier this year. That phone packs a 5.5-inch curved OLED display, as measured along the diagonal. However, because the display curves into the sides, the phone's physical footprint isn't much larger than that of the Galaxy S7 with a 5.1-inch flat display.

Apple's transition to a curved OLED display should allow it to achieve something similar.

Calling it now -- this phone is going to sell like crazy

Although the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus appear to be doing well in the marketplace, I believe that next year's curved OLED model has the potential to sell like crazy.

First, a significant change in form factor and display technology will probably result in an incredibly impressive-looking device. Apple has been fielding devices with largely the same look and feel for three generations now, so there could be a sizable portion of the iPhone installed base that'll get quite excited for a significant change in those areas.

Those iPhone owners who have been holding off on upgrading until Apple delivered such dramatic changes could finally hop on board once this OLED iPhone is out. Additionally, I suspect that there are some individuals who prefer the Apple ecosystem and iOS but ultimately opted for phones such as the Galaxy S7 Edge because they liked the curved display. Those customers could come back once the OLED iPhone is available to purchase.

Indeed, it's hard not to see the parallels between what happened with the iPhone 6 and what could potentially happen with the OLED iPhone. Remember that before the iPhone 6 generation, Apple didn't offer customers iPhone models with large screens. This decision probably cost Apple some business during the iPhone 5s generation. However, once the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus arrived, Apple saw significant market share gains and even pull-ins of iPhone upgrades.

Once Apple begins fielding smartphones with curved OLED displays, even if they are relatively pricey, I think the company will be once again poised to take share from high-end Android smartphone makers. And, perhaps, the company could see another pull-in of iPhone demand. 

Ashraf Eassa has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2018 $90 calls on Apple and short January 2018 $95 calls on Apple. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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