Although Apple has been slowly moving to OLED displays for its flagship iPhone models — the iPhone X, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max — the higher cost of integrating these displays into the iPhone has forced the company to keep at least one LCD model in its lineup in the form of the iPhone XR. However, a new report suggests that this may be changing next year.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple is expected to drop LCD displays for its 2020 lineup, going with OLED for all of that year’s iPhone models, according to sources familiar with Apple’s production plans. The WSJ report actually focuses on Japan Display, which produces LCD screens and boasts Apple as its largest customer, accounting for more than half of its FY 2018 revenue. The LCD maker has been struggling financially, however, and the loss of Apple’s business could spell even more trouble for it, although it’s important to note that Apple is continuing to manufacture the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models in addition to the current iPhone XR, and of course still uses Japan Display’s LCD displays for its entire iPad lineup.
The iPhone XR, however, features a Liquid Retina Display that has been specially designed by Apple to provide as many of the advantages of an OLED display as possible while still using less expensive LCD technology. This allows Apple to provide iPhone XR users with a more “iPhone X experience,” such as an edge-to-edge display, at a much lower cost of admission. While this required some significant engineering on Apple’s part, clearly the investment in time and resources was more cost-effective than simply using more expensive OLED screens in the lower-end iPhone model.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that we’ve heard about Apple’s plans to switch entirely to OLED, and some reports suggested that this would happen with the 2019 lineup, although numerous analysts have suggests that this is unlikely, and that we’ll still see an LCD-equipped iPhone on the docket later this year. This also seems reasonable as it’s unlikely Apple would have invested the energy into creating the Liquid Retina Display to use it for only a single iPhone model. Analysts have also suggested that the 2019 iPhone lineup will be a more iterative design change, with a more radical redesign planned for 2020.