HTC will have to switch many if not all of its phones from AMOLED displays to LCDs due to a supply crisis at Samsung, Korean cell carrier KT said this week. Samsung's insistence on reserving the already scarce supply for the Super AMOLEDs in the Galaxy S has left HTC with no choice but to use LCDs for the Desire, Droid Incredible and Nexus One, three of its most important phones. The current shortfall was enough to push back the Korean Nexus One launch a month to July.
All of the phones will instead use Sony's high-grade Super TFT LCD to dampen any perceived loss in quality.
The switch may be crucial not just to HTC but to Android as a whole. As the most important Android phone producer in the world, HTC may have stalled sales in the US and Europe by choosing AMOLED and constricting supply. Verizon has claimed it could sell twice as many Droid Incredibles if it had ready supply, but instead it has had to tell customers that any new orders won't ship for a month. In Korea, the delay could be enough to negate any early move advantage for HTC on KT, which also carries the iPhone and will now have the iPhone 4 the same time as the Nexus One arrives.
The decision also explains Apple's choice to go with an IPS-based LCD for the iPhone 4 instead of the AMOLED that some had thought it needed to use. While the Retina Display may have spurred on shortages of its own, Apple is using the much larger manufacturing resources for LCD and won't be as prone to losing supply as it would with AMOLED. Technical advantages also play a part, as AMOLED has better color reproduction and battery life but is very hard to see outdoors and is usually expensive.
Production of AMOLEDs may not improve by a significant amount until July 2011, when Samsung's 5.5-generation plant goes online and it can make 10 times as many screens as it can today. Samsung has a monopoly on AMOLED with 98 percent of production and thus doesn't have a viable alternative if it runs out of displays for anyone else.