Industry News March/April 2015 Issue 6

700 Million Apple iPhones Sold to Date

Competitors and industry pundits have been saying for years that Apple’s ascendancy is over, but to paraphrase Liberace, Apple is crying all the way to the bank.  In March, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that the company had sold more than 700 million iPhones since the launch of the product in 2007.  In the fourth quarter of 2014 alone, according to Apple Insider, Apple sold nearly 75 million iPhone 6 and 6 Plus units, which works out to 34,000 iPhones every hour, 24 hours a day, every day of the quarter.1  The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were released in September 2014.

A recent article in Money noted that the fourth quarter of 2014 was the first time in 3 years that Apple’s iPhones have been the best-selling smartphones in a given quarter.  The breakthrough is largely the result of an Apple deal with China’s largest mobile provider, China Mobile.  Apple’s sales in China increased 70% last quarter.2

Sales like these are obviously keeping iPhone suppliers happy.  While Apple is close-mouthed regarding its supply chain, manufacturers such as LG, Japan Display, and Innolux are widely assumed to be among its display suppliers.3  One supplier that did not reap the benefits of iPhone 6 sales is GT Advanced Technologies, which Apple, as reported earlier in ID magazine, had contracted with in November 2013 to build a new facility to produce sapphire, a scratch-resistant transparent material that can be used for mobile devices.  But Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus launched with non-sapphire screens and GT Advanced filed for bankruptcy in October 2014.  A settlement agreement between GT Advanced and Apple was announced late in 2014.

The next mobile Apple device to launch will be the Apple Watch, scheduled for release on April 24. According to the feature list making the rounds of the technology press, the Apple Watch will have sapphire glass.





Planar Announces Transparent OLED

Planar Systems, Inc., a maker of display and digital-signage technology, announced a new transparent OLED technology at Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) in Amsterdam last February (Fig. 1).

According to Planar, the 55-in. prototype’s OLED technology improves on the transparency of LCD-based see-through displays because OLED displays are self-emitting, thus eliminating the need for a backlight or enclosure.  (Planar also makes transparent LCDs.)  According to the company, transparent OLED technology also offers brilliant picture quality and contrast and wide viewing angles.  Planar anticipates adding the transparent OLED technology as a product offering in early 2016.


Fig. 1:  Planar’s transparent OLED display expands signage possibilities because it doesn’t need a backlight.


Instrument Systems Intros New Photometer/Colorimeter

Instrument Systems, which develops, manufactures, and markets turnkey solutions for light measurement, has introduced the LumiCam 1300 Advanced, a new imaging photometer and colorimeter (Fig. 2).  The LumiCam 1300 Advanced has been designed for extremely high accuracy in analyzing the characteristics of displays and electronic-panel graphics.

The new device is based on six filters.  Alongside the four optical filters used in the company’s LumiCam 1300 Color, the new camera has been expanded by two filters.  The system allows very accurate adjustment to eye-sensitivity functions using the data recorded from the six channels.  The LumiCam 1300 Advanced provides excellent accuracy for color coordinates, particularly when taking LED color measurements.


Fig. 2:  The LumiCam 1300 Advanced is designed for high accuracy in analyzing display metrics.


 .  .  .   All about Those Dots  .  .  .

At CES last January, major TV manufacturers like Samsung and LG were showing LCD TVs enhanced with quantum dots for increased color saturation and gamut.  Quantum-dot-enhanced TVs, writes ID contributor Ken Werner in his review of CES in this issue, are the 4K TVs of last year, meaning that 4K has become more commoditized, and quantum dots are the current high-priced differentiator for TVs.  Certainly, 2015 is the year that QDs move from something a few people know about to something a lot of people know about.

“As is typically the case,” says display industry analyst Paul Semenza, “the development of quantum dots was an instance of technology push, not market pull.  However, once the materials became available, they came to be viewed by some as a way for LCD to improve its color performance relative to that of OLED.”

A few quantum-dot facts and updates:

• Quantum dots, which are tiny nanocrystals, were discovered in the 1980s by Russian scientists Alexander Efros and Aleksey Ekimov, as well as by Louis Brus at Bell Labs.4

• Quantum dots are somewhat controversial from an environmental standpoint because many contain heavy metals such as cadmium.  Even the extremely small size of cadmium dots (thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair) makes them potentially more hazardous to humans than larger particles.  However, in a typical display the quantum dots would be so encapsulated as to pose negligible risk to humans, according to a recent report from  Of greater concern are manufacturing safety and end-of-life issues.5

• Quantum-dot-maker QD Vision is addressing these concerns and received a Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award last year from the EPA for its use of quantum-dot technology in energy-efficient commercial display and lighting products.  QD Vision’s processes involve fewer hazardous building blocks and solvents, reduce solvent waste, and increase yields in such a way as to ensure a net positive environmental benefit.  In addition, TVs using the company’s quantum dots use substantially less power than non-QD counterparts.5

• Nanoco Technologies makes cadmium- and heavy-metal-free quantum dots.  Last fall, the company entered into a partnership with Dow Chemical Company in which Dow was to manufacture quantum dots using technology licensed from Nanoco at a facility Dow was building in Korea.  In January 2015, LG and Dow announced that LG would be using the Dow/Nanoco quantum dots to produce TVs.

• The Vermont-based company VerLase won a patent last year for quantum-well technology that it hopes will replace phosphors and quantum dots in multiple LED applications.  Its Versulite G material incorporates wurtzite ZnCdSe quantum wells on 2-D layered semiconductor crystal. Product development is still in early stages.