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Big changes could be coming to iPhone screens — and they would be great for consumers

Key Points
  • Apple is reportedly going to use OLED panels in all of its new iPhones.
  • OLED panels are better than LCD for several reasons.
  • They use less power and offer better colors.
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Will Apple's switch to OLED screens make an impact? Experts weigh in

Apple will use OLED screens — the type the iPhone X already has — in new iPhones coming this year, according to South Korea's Electronic Times.

If it's true — CNBC has not confirmed it — the screen upgrade is good news for consumers

Apple used an OLED panel in the iPhone X, sourced from Samsung, that's much better than the LCD screens used in all of its other iPhones. Here's why that's a positive sign for consumers.

Colors

The colors on an OLED panel can "pop" more than on a traditional LCD panel, which means photos, videos and games can look much more true to life (this can come down to display tuning but Apple did a good job on the iPhone X). Also, OLED panels typically offer deeper blacks and brighter whites, which means dark and bright scenes in movies can often look more accurate than they would on an LCD panel, though LCDs have caught up recently in this space.

VR

OLED offers a clearer virtual reality experience than LCD, which is why most VR solutions use OLED instead of LCD.

OLED panels on smartphones have been used to enable virtual reality experiences on Android headsets. Samsung's OLED Galaxy smartphones work with Gear VR, while other Android phones with OLED panels also work with Google Daydream.

A switch to an all-OLED family of iPhones doesn't mean Apple is entering the space, but it makes it possible. Still, Apple CEO Tim Cook has said the company sees augmented reality — placing images of digital objects on top of the real world — as a more compelling technology than virtual reality (the sort where you place goggles on your head and enter another world).

Battery life

OLED panels typically use less battery than LCD panels, which means you could theoretically see longer battery life on an iPhone that uses an OLED panel instead of an LCD screen. Lots of factors come into play with battery life, however, including the apps you're using, the processor and more.

Some downsides

There can be some downsides to OLED panels, however. Price is the biggest one that consumers might face, which means Apple's iPhones could potentially cost more than they have in the past. The iPhone X, the only phone with an OLED panel to date, already costs about $1,000.

Apple will also need to source more panels if it plans to use OLED in additional iPhone models. Reports have suggested it could use screens from LG in addition to Samsung, which supplies the screens for the iPhone X. If there's a shortage of displays, or Apple can't get another partner, it could lead to a lower supply of iPhones and longer shipping times for consumers.

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