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OLED entanglement: Samsung pushes into TVs, LG amps up mobile

For the last few years, the OLED market has largely been split between two companies: Samsung and LG. LG has done the majority of the recent television launches and introductions, while Samsung owns the overwhelming majority of the market for mobile AMOLED screens.

A new report from Sammobile suggests the two firms will turn this split on its head by chasing each others’ business segments this year. Samsung is reportedly finalizing tests on its own eighth-generation OLED technology and will invest in scaling the technology up, while LG is investing in mobile displays to ramp its own production of small screens suitable for smartphones and other devices.

While both technologies are based on OLED, they aren’t necessarily implemented in the same fashion. Factors like burn-in, blue OLED longevity, and overall power consumption can be dealt with differently depending on the form factor, and LG obviously has the luxury of far higher power consumption at the device level.

These trends reflect longer-term aims rather than major short-term innovations. Just a month ago, Samsung announced that it would double-down on quantum dot technology and introduce 14 new TV models powered by that tech just this year. The advantages of OLED are that it doesn’t rely on a backlight, can draw less power in some circumstances (exactly which depends on the type of content) and color accuracy and viewing angles are often superior to traditional LCDs. Samsung, however, is going with quantum dot LCDs for the near-term future as a way to improve image quality.

Unlike past years, when OLED televisions were basically shown off at trade shows and never sold in-market, you actually can buy an OLED television today, provided you’re willing to pay some serious cash for it. A 1080p 55-inch OLED screen from LG is currently about $2,000 on Amazon, while the 4K version is $3,000. While that’s a far cry from the 11-inch OLED TV Sony once introduced with a list price of $11,000, a modern LED television in the same 50-55-inch form factor can be as cheap as $350 (1080p) and $800 for a higher-end 4K Samsung model.

While the situation has improved enormously, OLED is still 2x-4x more expensive depending on which models you choose and which features you like. Given that the television market tends to be quite price-sensitive, manufacturers may lean on features like HDR to push OLED awareness in the next few years. Reports suggest that despite progress, OLEDs remain significantly more expensive to manufacture then displays based on quantum dots or traditional LCDs, so this may be a way to keep OLED at the top of the market and profitable while companies hunt for ways to drive costs down further.

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