iPhone 8 with curved OLED screen
iPhone with a curved OLED screen could be on the way Reuters

Apple could unveil an iPhone featuring the curved OLED screen in 2017, which marks the 10th anniversary of the smartphone.

The curved screen variant could be introduced as one of the many models that are expected to be unveiled next year. However, it could cost more than the usual models, as the production cost of the OLED display is higher by at least $50 (£40), analysts claim.

There is also a possibility that Apple may not release the curved OLED model as it is one of more than 10 prototypes under contention, the Wall Street Journal quoted people familiar with the matter as saying.

Suppliers have been asked to increase the production of thinner OLED displays and submit prototypes featuring better resolution than the ones manufactured by Samsung. Smartphone-makers such as Samsung, Google and Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi have already switched to OLED screens from LCD displays as they are thinner, lighter and flexible. Additionally, the OLED screens do not require backlight component to illuminate the screen.

Research firm IHS Markit predicts revenue generated from the OLED market for smartphones would surpass the LCD market in 2018 and could touch $18.6bn. Last year the revenue in the LCD market was reported to be $20.8bn compared to the $10.6bn generated in the OLED segment.

Samsung Display, a subsidiary of Samsung Electronics, is a major player in the market for OLED display and one of the few companies that could mass produce the screens. The South Korean company has been a long time supplier of memory chips and other components to Apple. But as the two companies are rivals, Apple has diversified its screen suppliers. It has been relying on LG, Japan Display and Sharp for the retina display screens.

The WSJ report further suggests that Apple is likely to rely on Samsung for the initial OLED screens, but it wants the remaining firms to ramp up production, to gear up for 2018. Sharp will need to spend $5bn to supply OLED screens to Apple.

Tai Jeng-wu, chief executive at Sharp had earlier said, "We will make sample OLED screens, but I can't see them having the potential to become a big market."

Jerry Kang display analyst at IHS noted, "Several players in the display industry already have the technology to make OLEDs foldable and rollable." He did not reveal when they could be commercialised, but said the components inside the panels such as touch sensor and lens covers could restrict the flexibility of the screen.