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Apple rejected OLED screen for next iPhone, developed backup handset

Apple reportedly explored the possibility of adding an OLED screen to its forthcoming next-generation iPhone, but ultimately rejected the feature for a variety of reasons, and will stick with an LCD IPS display. The company has also allegedly developed a minor iPhone upgrade as a backup plan in case of production issues.

Taiwanese industry publication Digitimes published a conversation with its senior analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo, on Wednesday, in which he broke down the numerous rumors regarding Apple's fourth-generation handset.

With regards to the display, the interview revealed that Apple spoke with Samsung about active matrix OLED panels as far back as in the development of the iPhone 3GS, released last summer. But supply issues were reportedly only one part of the problem with OLED for Apple.

"AMOLED also has display weaknesses," Kuo said. "(Samsung Mobile Display) uses PenTile technology developed by Clairvoyante to produce AMOLED, which is less suitable for displaying text. With Apple quite keen on pushing e-reading businesses, AMOLED may not be the best solution at the moment."

Originally released for the iPad, Apple's iBooks application will make its way to the iPhone with the introduction of iPhone OS 4 this summer. iBooks includes the iBookstore, Apple's digital marketplace for books. The new iPhone application was highlighted as one of the key features of iPhone OS 4 at the operating system upgrade's unveiling in April.

In February, a scientific analysis of the Nexus One's OLED screen found that it was soundly beaten by the LCD display on Apple's iPhone 3GS. Dr. Raymond Soneira, president of DisplayMate Technologies, found that the Nexus One's bright, eye-catching display also has lots of noise of artifacts, and doesn't accurately reproduce colors.

Though it reportedly will not have an OLED screen, the new iPhone is rumored to have the same in-plane switching (IPS) technology for superior viewing angles found in the 9.7-inch display of the iPad. The screen will also reportedly include fringe-field switching, or FFS, technology, which is said to improve the device's e-book reader functions.

In his discussion with DigiTimes, Kuo also said that Apple began work on the fourth-generation iPhone — codenamed N90 — at the end of 2008, but Apple actually has another project, dubbed N91, which is a lesser upgrade.

"It's a parallel product to back up the N90 in case there are major delays due to significant modifications in casing, display resolution, digital camera support and so forth," he said.

Finally, he noted the new iPhone will feature Apple's custom ARM-based A4 processor, built on the Cortex A8 architecture — the same processor found inside the iPad. Apple did not upgrade to the multi-core Cortex A9 reference design because it requires support at the operating system level to take advantage of the greater horsepower.

"Since the launch schedule of the Cortex A9 processor is estimated for year's end and iPhone 4.0 is not ready to fully utilize a multi-core processor, the A4 is the most likely candidate," Kuo said.