Google Seeks Strategic Investment & Relationship With LG Display To Secure OLED Smartphone Displays

Google Pixel

According to Korea-based ETNews (Korean), Mountain View, California-based Google has approached LG Display and offered a strategic investment of ₩1 trillion (around US$880 million) toward constructing a single line in a Gen. 6 small/medium flexible OLED fabrication plant. Instead of engaging LG Display toward establishing a long term supply agreement Google is seeking to establish a strategic relationship with one of the world’s largest supplier of displays.

Google is most likely experiencing difficulties acquiring OLED displays for its flagship Pixel smartphone. The world’s dominant supplier of smartphone OLED displays is Samsung, but Samsung will be using its own OLED supply for its newly launched Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones. In addition there is speculation that Apple has secured most of the rest of Samsung’s OLED capacity for the next iPhone, which is expected to be named iPhone 8 or iPhone X. With Samsung’s OLED capacity earmarked for the Galaxy S8, S8+ and the next iPhone, Google needed to find another supplier and for the long term. The switch from LCD to OLED is underway and when Apple signals the smartphone world that OLED is the display technology of choice with its next iPhone all major brands will probably transition to OLED as well especially for their high-end smartphone offerings.

LG Display Paju Cluster

LG Display is currently building out two Gen. 6 flexible OLED fabrication plants: E5 in Gumi and Paju-based E6. E5 is expected to start production in Q3’17 while E6 is slated to come online in the second half of 2018. About $1.7 billion will be invested toward constructing the Gen 6 (1500x1850mm) flexible OLED fab; E6 is expected to have a monthly input capacity of 15,000 substrates. LG Display has invested $900 million to build its E5 fab, which is slated for production in 1H’17 with an initial monthly input capacity of 7,500 substrates or about 1.5 million 5.5-inch flexible OLED displays.

If Google and LG Display sign a strategic investment agreement flexible OLED displays earmarked for Google will probably be manufactured at LG Display’s E5 fab. Google’s investment would be coming at an important time for LG Display as the company builds its flexible OLED capacity for smartphones and other small/medium applications.

LG Display has been the main supplier of displays to Apple for many years. Apple’s iPhones, iPads, iMacs, MacBooks, etc. are mostly supplied by LG Display due to the company’s well received and superior IPS LCD technology. But if Apple switches to OLED displays for the company’s iPhones it will be a major blow to LG Display. Samsung has been honing its smartphone OLED display technology for many years and it will likely be an uphill battle for LG Display to catch up. Although Apple might use LG Display as a second or third supplier of flexible OLED displays in the future, the probability that it will be sooner than later seems low. LG Display needs Google as much as Google needs LG Display.

Google is expected to announce a new Pixel smartphone this fall and to secure a reliable supply of flexible OLED displays via a strategic relationship with LG Display makes a lot of sense.

Samsung Galaxy S8 & S8+

Samsung Galaxy S8 S8+ Front

[ Samsung ] The Samsung Galaxy S8 comes in two sizes: the regular version, simply called S8, sports a 5.8-inch OLED display while the larger S8+ is equipped with a slightly larger 6.2-inch screen. The main design difference between the S8 and the S7 is the thickness of the forehead and the lip: those are much thinner on the S8. And by incorporating a longer screen Samsung incorporated a larger display without making it wider. The overall look is quite nice, handsome even.

The iPhone 7 Plus is physically wider and taller but sports a smaller 5.5-inch LCD with a lot less pixels (1920×1080), thanks to the now relatively huge forehead, lip, and bezels on the sides. The Galaxy S8 is similar to the LG G6, which features a longer 18:9 (2:1) aspect ratio 2880×1440 display, both Samsung’s S8 and S8+ have a tiny bit more stretch with a 2960×1440 pixel format and a 2.06:1 aspect ratio. The extra 80 pixels comes in handy as they are used for the Overview (Menu or Open Apps), Home, and Back soft buttons. The remaining 2880 pixels can be used to have two 1440×1440 square windows, while still having access to the soft navigation buttons.

The smaller S8 has a slightly higher 570 ppi resolution while the larger S8+ features a resolution of 529 ppi. These displays have a name, like they always do, and are called: Quad HD+ Super AMOLED. Meaningless, but I guess someone’s getting paid to have fun.

DisplayMate president Raymond Soneira took a battery of display-related tests and found impressive results for the Samsung S8 and S8+.

Color Gamut 100% DCI-P3, thanks to the new high saturation “Deep Red” OLED. The Galaxy S8 can display the latest 4K video content. The measured absolute color accuracy is 2.7 JNCD, which most likely is more accurate than the 4K UHD TV in our living room.

In the AMOLED Photo screen mode the Galaxy S8’s color gamut is 98% Adobe RGB, the color profile many photographers prefer due to the 17% larger color gamut than sRGB/Rec.709.

UHD Alliance Mobile HDR Premium

HDR First smartphone to be UHD Alliance certified for Mobile HDR Premium. This little bit here is a big deal. We watch a lot of view on our smartphones and the format has gone from SD, 720p HD, and 1080p HD. Some enjoy 4K. HDR or High Dynamic Range improves contrast and color making those pixels even more enjoyable to watch. But beware of brands touting HDR without OLED displays or without a LED-backlit LCDs with a bunch of LED zones; that type of HDR combines edge-lit backlights and “intelligent” software, which is not as good, and sometimes terrible, compared to the real hardware version.

Brightness 1000+ nits. This is bright, and will be good when we’re out in the sun and need to check our phones. For comparison the iPhone 7 has a peak brightness of 602 cd/m2 (same thing as nit), test results by Soneira. Brightness can significantly help us see out in the sun, but combine that with low screen reflectance and sunlight viewability becomes greatly improved. The S8’s screen reflectance is 4.5%; the iPhone 7 beats it by a hair with 4.4%. Combine brightness and screen reflectance and it’s a no brainer which smartphone is better out in the sun: the Galaxy S8/S8+.

Night Mode Blue Light Filter reduces the amount of blue light. On an RGB OLED night mode is effective, because the B (blue) OLED sub-pixel’s brightness can be turned down. Night Mode on an LCD is non-sense: all the light coming out of the backlight is generated by a blue LED with a yellow phosphor coating. The combination of the blue light coming out of the LED and the yellow phosphor results in white light. This white light however is not full-spectrum, meaning more saturated colors such as red are not rendered very well.

The reason why brands such as Samsung and Apple are coming out with Night Mode is to reduce the negative effect of blue light on our circadian rhythm, or our sleep cycles. Light, especially light in the blue wavelength region of the spectrum, is the most powerful signal for shifting or resetting our circadian rhythm. Low levels of melatonin is present during the day and those levels go up a few hours before going to sleep and peaks in the middle of the night. Melatonin is a natural hormone found in the body that regulates sleep and wakefulness; in other words melatonin is what synchronizes our mind and body to our sleep cycles. Light suppresses melatonin. When we are watching our LCD or OLED TVs, working on our LCD monitors, watching movies on our tablets and/or smartphones we are letting a bunch of light especially blue light into our eyes that suppresses melatonin. Light in the evening causes a circadian delay and shifts our circadian rhythm to a later schedule. The more we look at our devices in the evening the harder it is for us to fall asleep when we want to. The best thing to do to reset our circadian rhythm to a healthy cycle is to put down our devices in the early evenings, but if that’s not possible having a display with an effective Night Mode is essential to prevent your circadian cycle to be shifted toward later in the evening. Finally and most importantly all of this is to sleep well, which is paramount if you want to feel good and be productive the next day.

Samsung Galaxy S8 Camera System

Camera Most of us have one camera: our smartphones. That’s why having a good camera on our smartphones has become so important. The S8 and S8+ has a fast ƒ/1.7 aperture lens, on both the back and front lenses. The iPhone 7’s lens is fast too, at ƒ/1.8 (the wide-angle lens), but falls a little behind. The faster the lens the more light it brings into the image sensor. In other words, we can take photos in darker settings without resorting to the flash.

The image sensor pixel size is important too. The larger the pixel size the more light it can absorb. The S8 and S8+ has a 1/2.55-inch image sensor, coupled with 12 megapixels, results in the pixel size of 1.4µm. According to Chipworks the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus sport the same 12 megapixels but image sensor pixels are smaller: 1.22µm. We will be able to take photos in darker environments with the S8 than we can with the iPhone 7.

Selfies are huge. And Samsung made sure to update the front camera. The selfie camera sports an 8 megapixel image sensor, an improved face detection algorithm for faster and more accurate autofocus. The aperture is the same as the rear camera at ƒ/1.7, but with a slightly smaller pixel size of 1.22µm. The FOV (field of view) is a wide 80 degrees. Often we are taking selfies with a group of people and that’s when a wider FOV becomes important.

EverythingApplePro took the Galaxy S8 and the iPhone 7 out for some side-by-side comparison testing. The conclusion? The S8 had the upper edge, but it was quite close. Take a look for yourself.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ is without a doubt a much more beautiful smartphone than the LG G6 and especially the iPhone 7 Plus. How our smartphone looks is definitely important, but beauty isn’t everything. In terms of overall system speed, that’s a different story: check out EverythingApplePro’s “Samsung Galaxy S8 vs iPhone 7 Plus Speed Test”. iPhone 7 Plus wins, especially when already opened apps are relaunched. The multicore performance GeekBench benchmarks are similar between the two, but the single core performance of the iPhone 7 Plus is a little less than 2x that of the Galaxy S8.

iMac Pro

iMac 5K

[ BuzzFeed ] Phil Schiller, Apple’s SVP of Worldwide Marketing:

We have big plans for the iMac. We’re going to begin making configurations of iMac specifically with the pro customer in mind.

I hope that doesn’t mean the type of “pro configuration” we see on the new MacBook Pro’s. Touchscreen?

No. Touch doesn’t even register on the list of things pro users are interested in talking about. They’re interested in things like performance and storage and expandability.

Microsoft’s Surface Studio comes to mind, as an example of exactly the opposite of what Schiller thinks professional users want to do with their large displays. Of course not every professional is a designer, and maybe non-designers were who Schiller was thinking of when he answered the question regarding a touchscreen.

Microsoft Surface Studio

Craig Federighi, Apple’s SVP of Software Engineering:

The iMac has seen an incredible evolution over the past decade. The original iMac you wouldn’t have thought of as remotely touching pro uses. But today’s 5K iMac in its top configurations? It’s incredibly powerful. Tasks that previously would have required the Mac Pros of old are now being well addressed by today’s iMac.

A 5K iMac in its top configuration costs US$4128.00, which includes:

  • 27-inch Retina 5K display
  • 4.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 4.2GHz
  • 32GB 1867MHz DDR3 SDRAM – four 8GB
  • 1TB Flash Storage
  • AMD Radeon R9 M395X with 4GB video memory
  • Magic Mouse 2 + Magic Trackpad 2

$4128 is a lot of money, especially considering the slower RAM and less powerful GPU. Other all-in-one options include:

  • $1900 HP ENVY 27: 27-inch 3840×2160 4K UHD display, 2.9GHz 7th Gen Core i7-7700T up to 3.8GHz, 16GB DDR4-2133 SDRAM – two 8GB, 256GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD and 2TB 5400RPM HDD, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M 4GB GDDR5.
  • $3300 Dell XPS 27: 27-inch 4K UHD display, 3.4Ghz 6th Gen Core i7-6700 up to 4.0GHz, 32GB 2133MHz DDR4, 1TG PCIe SSD, AMD R9 M485X 4GB GDDR5.
  • $4200 Microsoft Surface Studio: 28-inch 4500×3000 10-point multi-touch, 2.7GHz 6th Gen Core i7 up to 3.6GHz, 32GB DDR4 RAM, 128GB SSD with 2TB HDD, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M 4GB GDDR5.

The HP ENVY 27 all-in-one is the most economic of the four — you can actually buy two for less than the price of one 5K iMac — but it does have some weaknesses. The CPU is less powerful, RAM is maxed out at 16GB, the M.2 SSD is slower and HDD is way slower, and the GPU is weaker.

Dell XPS 27 All-In-One

The Dell XPS 27 has less pixels, less CPU power, but faster RAM, equivalent SSD, and more powerful GPU, the most powerful R9 series GPU AMD currently has to offer actually.

The Surface Studio by Microsoft has a bit less pixels, but those you can touch, less CPU power, but faster RAM, slower larger storage, and more powerful GPU.

So how would Schiller configure a  iMac Pro? The current iMac’s weakest points are the slow RAM and weak GPU. RAM will most likely be increased to DDR4 perhaps with the maximum increased to 64GB. If Apple is planning to release a iMac Pro later this year, then it’s probably being tested right now. With NVIDIA having the lead in mobile GPU with its 1.733GHz GeForce GTX 1080 with 8GB GDDR5X the iMac Pro will most likely be equipped with it, unless Apple shifts toward an external GPU (eGPU) unit that can hold one or two desktop-class GPUs. Examples of eGPUs are the Razor Core, Alienware Graphics Amplifier, MSI Gaming Dock; these may be coming in the near future: ASUS ROG XG Station 2, Gigabyte GP-T3GFx, and the designed-for-Mac The Wolfe. I’m sure Apple can design a beautiful and powerful Thunderbolt 3-based eGPU enclosure for the iMac Pro.

Broadcom WiFi Chipset Vulnerability

Broadcom WiFi Chipset

[ Ars Technica ] Dan Goodin:

The vulnerability resides in a widely used Wi-Fi chipset manufactured by Broadcom and used in both iOS and Android devices. Apple patched the vulnerability with Monday’s release of iOS 10.3.1. “An attacker within range may be able to execute arbitrary code on the Wi-Fi chip,” Apple’s accompanying advisory warned. In a highly detailed blog post published Tuesday, the Google Project Zero researcher who discovered the flaw said it allowed the execution of malicious code on a fully updated 6P “by Wi-Fi proximity alone, requiring no user interaction.”

Gal Beniamini developed the exploit. Google is working on a patch, but the patch will take some time, and some smartphones — even fairly new ones — will at times never get patched. Allowing smartphone brands such as HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sony, etc. to push their own versions of Android becomes an Achilles’s Heel when a security patch needs to be distributed quickly and to all affected Android smartphones. As a precaution turn off WiFi connectivity in public locations; it may not be safe enough not to connect to unverified WiFi signals.

If you’re an iPhone (iPhone 5 and newer) user, patch your iPhone. iPhone 4s and older iPhone users: I’d recommend upgrading to an iPhone SE, the most affordable new iPhone Apple is currently selling.

Samsung Tizen Security Holes

Tizen OS Logo

Amihai Neiderman, head of research at Israel-based Equus Technologies, discovered 40 not yet publicly disclosed vulnerabilities that could allow a remote hack of Samsung gear running its Tizen operating system: smart TVs, Gear smartwatches, and smartphones. Samsung plans to use Tizen on its washing machines and refrigerators, too. One particularly critical vulnerability called a heap-overflow vulnerability involves Samsung’s TizenStore app: Neiderman was able to hijack the app and deliver malicious code to his Samsung TV. All Tizen OS-based devices connect to the TizenStore to receive apps and app updates; a vulnerability there could mean malicious code can be easily sent to millions of devices running the Tizen operating system.

Neiderman contacted Samsung months ago regarding the vulnerabilities but received only an automated email response. Now, after publication of Neiderman’s foundings, Samsung has responded that the company will be working with the researcher to patch vulnerabilities.

Samsung Smart TV Tizen OS

Fixing Tizen will most likely take some time, so while we are waiting let’s make sure to cut internet connectivity on any Tizen-based gear we might have, just to be safe: Samsung’s TVs (4K SUHD TV, 4K UHD TV, LED TV), smartphones (Z1, Z2, Z3), wearables (Gear S, Gear 2, Gear 2 NEO, Gear S2, Gear S3), etc. TVs can easily be viewed without a direct internet connection since there are many devices such as Apple TV, ChromeCast, Roku, etc., and Gear watches can be used simply as a watch, but Tizen smartphones will realistically become useless, unless Samsung works quickly to patch all of Tizen’s vulnerabilities.

Source: Motherboard

Sony Xperia XZ Premium

Sony Xperia XZ Premium

Sony claims the Xperia XZ Premium is the world’s first smartphone with a 4K HDR display. 4K on a 5.5-inch display is technically impressive, but there might be a large negative impact on battery life. HDR? True HDR requires a display with an LED-backlit BLU (the more LEDs the better), or that it be an OLED display. Does the Xperia XZ Premium have an LED-backlit display? Most likely not; the BLU like almost all other non-OLED smartphones is edge-lit. Is it OLED? No. I might be wrong, but the HDR in this case is probably software based.

The overall industrial design of the Xperia XZ Premium is to my liking: a simple but consistent rectangular shape with diamond cut chamfered edges. The only area that needs a bit of improvement is the forehead and the lip; they are too thick. On the other hand I don’t like it too thin because in order to hold it firmly our fingers need some space. I would have forgiven the thick lip if physical or capacitive back, home, and apps buttons were located there, but no they are on the display taking up valuable pixel space. Oh, there is one more niggle: although the camera bump is not as large as the ones found on recent iPhones it’s still there. A camera-bump-less design is a more beautiful design.

Source: Sony

Apple Park

The new 175-acre campus has an official name: Apple Park. More than 12,000 employees will start moving into the building in April; Apple estimates the move-in to take more than six months. The long process will eventually be worth it: employees will be surrounded by curved glass and have plenty of space — 2.8 million square feet — to work.

Apple Park Steve Jobs Theater

Today is Steve Jobs’ 62nd birthday and to honor his memory Apple will be christening the theater at Apple Park as Steve Jobs Theater (photo above). Quite fitting. Steve Jobs Theater is a 1000-seat 165-foot diameter circular auditorium surrounded by curved glass 20 feet tall. Beautiful, but with all that glass, I wonder how earthquake-resistant the buildings are. I hope quite.

Jony Ive:

We have approached the design, engineering and making of our new campus with the same enthusiasm and design principles that characterize our products.

Apple Park was designed in collaboration with Foster + Partners. Here are some tidbits:

  • 5 million square feet of asphalt & concrete was replaced with grassy fields and 9000+ drought-resistant native trees. (I am anxious for pollen-based allergy sufferers.)
  • Entirely powered by 100% renewable energy; its solar roof generates 17 megawatts of electricity. (I’m guessing there’s a bunch of large batteries somewhere, to power the giant building at night.)
  • World’s largest naturally ventilated building, projected to require no heating or air conditioning for nine months of the year. (Air filtration systems, I’m guessing, are fully operational 24/7.)

I cannot fathom the amount of natural and industrial resources required to have built this architectural marvel, but going forward I am relieved Apple Park will drastically decrease its consumption.

Although park is part of its name, Apple Park is mostly limited to Apple employees and those who visit to conduct business there, but an Apple Store and a cafe will be open to the public. I intend to go sample the coffee there as soon as possible.

Source: Apple

Japan Display Inc. Full Active Flex Bendable LCD

Japan Display Inc. Full Active Flex Bendable LCD

Japan Display Inc. or JDI is one of the few display manufacturers who supply smartphone displays to Apple. JDI also has the world’s largest production capacity of LTPS (Low Temperature Poly-Silicon) LCDs, an important fact considering LTPS is required if multitouch performance is important.

JDI announced a 5.5-inch LCD that’s bendable. JDI is calling the technology FULL ACTIVE FLEX. Bendable displays have up until now been limited to OLED technology. OLED is still more bendable than JDI’s bendable LCD, but JDI’s LCD bends enough that it could work as the curved display in the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Bendable LCDs have the potential to be considerably more affordable than OLED because of the vast manufacturing infrastructure; the LCD industry will need to transition from glass substrates to plastic substrates for that to happen though.

Technical Specifications:

  • Display: 5.5-inch IPS-NEO LCD with Plastic Substrates
  • Pixel Format: 1920×1080 RGB
  • Resolution: 401 ppi
  • Driving Frequency: 60Hz, 30Hz, 15Hz
  • Brightness: 500 cd/m2 (typical)
  • Contrast Ratio: 1500:1 (typical)

LCD is liquid crystals sandwiched by two glass substrates. Although Corning has come out with bendable glass (Willow Glass), JDI replaced glass with plastic. Plastic bends, of course, but it is also more resistant to cracking and shattering than glass.

Apple, Samsung, and others who make smartphones use an extra layer of cover glass to protect the display underneath. The use of a cover glass like Corning’s Gorilla Glass protects the display and at times can add to a more seamless design, but it makes the smartphone thicker and more expensive. I like the idea of durable, bendable plastic LCDs not needing an extra layer of protection.

JDI plans to enter mass manufacturing in 2018.

Source: Japan Display Inc.

LG Signature OLED TV W

LG Signature OLED W7 TV

The LG Signature OLED TV W series is a 4K OLED TV with HDR, but so thin and light it attaches to the wall using magnets.

The OLED TV itself has a dimension of 67.8×38.9×0.2 inches. Yes, that’s just 0.2 inches (0.51 cm) thick. 76.7 inches worth of OLEDs only weighs 27.1 pounds (12.3 kg). The AV Box weighs more: 28.0 pounds.

Technical Specifications:

  • Display: 76.7-inch (194.8 cm) 3840×2160 OLED
  • HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10, HLG
  • Sound: Dolby Atmos / DTS-HD, 4.2 Channel, 60W
  • Wireless: 802.11ac
  • Ports: 4x HDMI (HDCP 2.2), 3x USB-A, 1x RF-in, 1x Composite-in, 1x Component-in, 1x Ethernet, 1x Optical, 1x RS-323C (Mini Jack)
  • OS: webOS 3.5

I think LG should have done what Sony did: get rid of the speakers. (Perhaps that sonic technology was too thick?) What’s the use of a 0.2-inch thick OLED TV when the AV Box protrudes out 8.2 inches. For customers who want the absolute minimal, thinnest OLED TV there are plenty of in-wall speaker solutions to completely hide everything except for the display.

Source: LG

Dell UP3218K

Dell UP3218K 32-inch 8K LCD Monitor

The Dell UP3218K is a 32-inch 8K desktop monitor. 8K translated into pixels is 7680×4320; that equals to four 3840×2160 put together in a 2×2 matrix.

The UP3218K presents a professional look with thin bezels (9.7-mm) and a simple but solid stand. The stand allows you to pivot, tilt, swivel, and adjust the height.

Technical Specifications:

  • Display: 32-inch 8K 7680×4320 LCD
  • Viewing Angles: 178/178
  • Refresh Rate: 60Hz
  • Contrast Ratio: 1300:1
  • Colors: 1.07 billion, 100% AdobeRGB & sRGB
  • Ports: 2x DisplayPort 1.4, 4x USB-A 3.0

Dell will sell the UP3218K on March 23 for US$5000.

Sources: The Verge, PCWorld