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Sharp's entry into the OLED market will bring some much-needed competition

Even if Sharp is taking it slow, anything that can compete with Samsung will be good for consumers.

Published onOctober 3, 2018

  • Sharp announced today that it will start to produce OLED smartphone displays for both its own phones as well as competitors’.
  • Although Sharp OLED panels are definitely coming, the company will be taking it slow.
  • Regardless of how much Sharp commits to OLED, anything to compete with Samsung is good.

Today, Sharp announced the Sharp Aquos Zero, the newest smartphone from the Japanese corporation. The smartphone has all the expected flagship specs, including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a very low weight for its size: 146 grams.

However, the truly notable thing about the Sharp Aquos Zero is its screen: a 6.2-inch OLED display with a resolution of 2,992 × 1,440. This is the first Sharp OLED smartphone panel ever.

According to Reuters, Sharp will not only incorporate OLED panels into its own upcoming smartphones, but it will also sell OLED displays to other smartphone manufacturers.

This new entry in the OLED market is a boon to us all, as it will add some much-needed competition against the undisputed king of smartphone displays: Samsung.

LG’s new OLED plant is approved by China, weeks after Apple partnership reported
A mock-up of a newly-approved Chinese LG OLED plant.

However, don’t get too excited just yet, as it appears Sharp is going to take things slow, at least at first. According to the Reuters report, Sharp is in no rush to spend the estimated $1.8 billion it would likely take to start a completely new production line from scratch. Instead, it is spending about $505 million on producing a limited number of OLED panels as a way of dipping its toes in the water.

Although OLED panels are universally better and more versatile than LCD panels, they are far more expensive. As such, the smartphone industry has been slow to adopt OLED technology as widely as analysts expected, and Sharp apparently wants the market to develop more before going all-in on OLED.

It’s sort of a catch-22 though, as one of the main reasons OLED panels are so expensive is because Samsung dominates the market. With little competition, Samsung has no incentive to drop pricing.

This semi-monopoly is why Apple allegedly partnered with LG to produce OLED panels for the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. However, it’s suspected that Apple used Samsung OLED panels anyway, which is disappointing.

If Sharp — and hopefully, LG — can inject some competition into the OLED market, Samsung’s dominance can be weakened a bit, which would result in cheaper OLEDs across the board. Cheaper OLEDs means more smartphones with the technology at more affordable prices.

OLED panels also are the basis for foldable displays (LCD panels cannot fold), so if the foldable phone revolution is really coming, other companies need to get on board. If not, Samsung will own the entire foldable industry, which is what it’s planning to do.

NEXT: ‘Unbreakable’ Samsung OLED panel hints at cracks in Gorilla Glass relationship

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