Everyone in the display industry already knows that Apple announced its iPhone X (pronounced “iPhone TEN”) today. Many other sources will give you the details on the features, if you don’t have time to watch the full event: but here’s a quick summary: 5.85” edge-to-edge OLED screen with an unusual 19.5x9 aspect ratio and 2346x1125 resolution, no home button and no fingerprint sensor but these replaced by face recognition, wireless charging, improved camera and battery, all starting at $999, and available for orders on October 27th, with shipping starting November 3rd.
The panel goes edge to edge and has rounded corners and a notch. Thin film encapsulation is used to make it ultra thin and light, but it is not curved losing the added functionality and appeal of an edge on each sides. It is 14% lighter than the iPhone 8+ as shown below, despite having a larger display. Losing the curve and edge does reduce costs as the cover glass doesn't have to be formed to the shape of the curved panel.
DSCC sources have learned some other insights on the iPhone X that are likely of interest to readers of this blog. As most readers know, the OLED panel in the iPhone X is made by Samsung Display, but DSCC has learned that Samsung is the source not only of the display but also the X/Y touch panel and the cover glass lamination, while TPK makes the Force Touch panel. The full package of display, touch panel and cover glass costs $120.
Some columnists “blame” the OLED screen for the higher price of the iPhone X. Perhaps because I’ve spent my whole career in the display world, I don’t think of this as a bad thing. Yes, higher display prices are a factor in higher phone prices, but the display (including the touch interface) is the most valuable part of the phone. A bigger, better display delivers value to the consumer in higher productivity as well as a better user experience, in a more convenient and attractive form factor. Consumers can certainly choose less expensive phones with inferior displays, but the top brands believe and many consumers are demonstrating that these screens add more to the value of the phone than to its cost.
As most of the features of the iPhone X were rumored months ago, the biggest surprise to me was the announced release date at the end of October. Some difficulties in the display plus touch module production may be a factor in this delay: DSCC sources indicate that production of iPhone X panels started in July 2017 with only 1 million panels, with 5 million in August and an estimated 13 million in September, with around 50 million to be produced in Q4. The iPhone X is supposed to be the best seller of the new iPhones. The iPhone 8 looks just like the 7 and may face tough competition outside of North America where bezel-less phones are becoming quite popular.
Since the original iPhone was the debut of Corning’s Gorilla Glass, it seemed fitting that the iPhone X claimed a new level of performance (I won’t call it a breakthrough) in cover glass. Apple announced that both its iPhone 8 and 8 Plus products and the iPhone X will have a new generation of cover glass on both the front and back of the phone.
Since Corning has already launched Gorilla Glass 5, the glass in the iPhone X must be even better than 5, so it’s likely we can expect Corning in 12-18 months announce a Gorilla Glass 6 (if they decide to call it that). Based on the timing of this launch, it’s very unlikely that this new generation of glass is a product of Apple’s investment in Corning’s Harrodsburg, Kentucky operations – any investment that Apple makes in 2017 in a new glass production process is not likely to find its way into a product until 2018 at the earliest. This means that it’s likely that Corning has yet another step in performance improvement in Gorilla Glass in the works.