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Apple Watch's advanced AMOLED display far more costly than traditional screens - report

The flexible AMOLED display found in Apple's new smart watch is believed to be among the most-costly mobile device displays available, according to a new report, with the 1.5-inch units thought to cost more than half as much as the 4.7-inch LCD in the new iPhone 6.

The plastic-backed AMOLED display in the 42-millimeter Apple Watch is pegged at an approximate all-in cost of $27.41 per unit, market research firm NPD DisplaySearch said on Monday, compared to the $45 per unit estimate from IHS for the 4.7-inch Retina display in the iPhone 6. Both costs include the display itself, as well as touch modules, cover glass, and the labor needed to build the components.

Despite the high price, only $7.86 of the $27.41 total is said to come from the display itself. Most of the additional cost comes from the cover glass —  though it not clear whether sapphire is included in this calculation —  and the touch module.

"The plastic AMOLED offers design flexibility and is very rugged," NPD manufacturing research executive Charles Annis said in a release. Much of that flexibility stems from its significantly thinner profile — 65 percent thinner and lighter than a traditional LCD, and 50 percent thinner and lighter than a glass-backed AMOLED display.

"Apple's choice of a plastic AMOLED as the display medium for its Watch reflects not only its strategy of emphasizing quality, but also suggests increasing confidence in flexible displays as an enabling technology for wearable computers," Annis added.

Apple's entry into the OLED supply chain is also likely to have a significant impact on shipments of smaller OLED displays. While shipments of OLED displays headed for smart watches have held steady at around 1 million per quarter for the last year, Apple alone is expected to consume some 8 million displays in the fourth quarter of 2014 as it gears up for the Apple Watch launch early next year.