New Phone News
The annual Apple roundup has commenced: in September 2018, Apple announced that the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR will replace the iPhone X, which launched in September 2017. The iPhone XS (5.8 inches with a 2,436 × 1,125 resolution) and iPhone XS Max (6.5 inches with a 2,688 × 1,242 resolution) both feature 458-ppi OLED displays and a dual-camera system. They support Dolby Vision and HDR10, run on the A12 Bionic chip, and cost $999 and $1099, respectively.
The iPhone XR (6.1 inches) starts at $749 and features an LCD – not an OLED – panel. It also comes with a smaller battery and a larger array of color choices (Fig. 1) than the iPhone XS models, which are available in gold, silver, and gray.
In October, Samsung announced a new midrange Android-based smartphone, the 6.3-in. Galaxy A9 (2018) featuring an OLED display with 1,080 × 2,220 resolution. The A9 runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 chip and features a four-camera setup on the back. This phone is scheduled to launch in Q4 in Europe starting at around €600. A US launch has not been announced.1
Samsung’s flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S9, was released last spring. The next high-end iteration, the S10, will likely be available in early 2019. Design features haven’t been officially announced, though a bezel-less design is a rumored possibility.2
The most talked-about news out of Samsung this fall came from the company’s Mobile Division CEO, DJ Koh, at the A9 launch. Koh said that a foldable OLED phone, the Galaxy F, is definitely on the way. When folded it will be a phone, but when unfolded will extend to tablet size. What date the phone will actually ship and in what countries and at what price have not been announced. In fact, the phone hasn’t even been officially announced – Koh hinted that this could take place at Samsung’s developer conference in November 2018.3 Taiwanese rival Huawei has also been public in its plans to launch a foldable OLED phone – there is definitely a race to market going on here.
Interestingly, Huawei overtook Apple in the second quarter of 2018 to become number two to Samsung’s one in terms of global sales of cell phones. Last spring, Apple and Samsung reached a settlement in a patent infringement lawsuit that has been ongoing since 2011, over Apple’s contention that Samsung copied early versions of the iPhone. The jury seems to have agreed in many respects, ordering Samsung to pay $539 million to Apple prior to the settlement, the details of which have not been disclosed.4 In any event, none of this has broken Samsung’s stride: Q3 sales have yet to be announced, but general consensus is that the rankings among the top three will not shift from Q2.
Fig. 1: Apple’s new lower priced LCD-based iPhone XR comes in six finishes: white, black, blue, yellow (shown here), coral, and red. Source: Apple.
Plessey Partners with Jasper and AIXTRON
Plessey, also known as Plessey Semiconductors, has been busy formalizing relationships with other companies in order to move its monolithic microLED technology forward. In August, Plessey announced a partnership with smartglasses developer Vuzix for the co-creation of next-generation augmented-reality smartglasses. More recently, Plessey announced agreements with Jasper Display Corp. (JDC), a designer of spatial light modulators (SLMs) and microdisplays, and with AIXTRON, which makes metal-organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) reactors for the semiconductor industry. Plessey plans to use silicon backplane technology from JDC for its monolithic microLED displays, which are made on its proprietary gallium-nitride (GaN)-on-silicon wafers. And Plessey purchased a new AIX G5+ C AIXTRON MOCVD reactor from AIXTRON to boost its in-house microLED manufacturing capability.
According to Plessey, it plans to unveil its first monochrome microLED array at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2019. •
Fig. 2: For $595, a digital canvas in a black poplar frame from Meural allows you to display just about any work of art you wish in your home or office. Many artworks are free; additional ones are available for an annual fee of about $50. Source: Meural.
Advantech, a Taiwan-based provider of embedded and automated technology, has announced it will spend NT $200 million (US $6.41 million) to acquire a 15-percent stake in touch-panel maker Mildex Optical, also based in Taiwan, from Panjit International.6