Apple Orders Sample 65-inch Displays Sparking TV Set Rumors (Again)

The Apple Crystal BallApple has ordered “sample display panels” from a Korean display maker, according to a Korean analyst. Lee Seung-woo, an analyst at Seoul-based IBK Securities, told The Korean Herald that Apple has ordered samples and was working with a local company to produce them, but from there the story gets fuzzy, to be generous.

“The company is making 65-inch organic light-emitting diode sample panels for Apple’s iTV in collaboration with Apple,” Mr. Lee said. “However, it is not certain whether Apple will use it for the mass production of its long-rumored iTV as it is still running tests."

This of course leads to questions about what Apple would want with a small run of 65-inch OLED displays. Since it’s not likely Apple is creating gigantic Thunderbolt Displays, the discussion turns (once again) to an Apple television.

On one hand, Apple orders/creates/patents all kinds of things that never see the light of day. On the other hand, there’s rampant speculation about a product that some people have tried for years to wish into being.

The Korean Herald article doesn’t name the display company (strike one), says the televisions were going to be released this year but got delayed (strike two), and is quoting an analyst who generally cheers Samsung (strike three). I looked him up and couldn’t find anyplace else he’d said anything about Apple except when he discussed Samsung outperforming them in some way.

There may well be something to be said for Apple making a television set. After all, at least one person has been saying it since 2011. But there are a variety of reasons Apple could have ordered these screens and called them “samples.”

Possibly for retail locations, or updating conference rooms with nicer screens on company campuses, or for fun because when you have something like eleventy eight basquillion dollars in the bank, you can do things like order a batch of panels using new neato display tech like OLED and laugh at the bill.

OLED is different from LED screens (like Thunderbolt displays) because it doesn’t require a backlight, and in lower light situations can look nicer because it has a better contrast ratio. No backlight also means the display itself can be thinner and lighter.

I did a quick Google search for OLED TV sets and found a 55 inch LG model for about US$6,000, so however many of these were ordered, they certainly weren’t cheap.

Just because Apple has ordered these displays doesn’t mean they’re making televisions now, just like building MacBook Airs with cellular capability or other sizes of iPads don't necessarily mean those things will make it out the door.

We’ve heard in the past about the iterations a product must go through before it’s allowed out in public, and I expect if the day comes when Apple builds an Apple Television (not to be confused with Macintosh TV), it will have been through a number of versions before the one Tim Cook unveils at an Apple event. Refinement is one of the things that Apple does better than virtually anyone, which is why iPods and later iPhones are devices people want to use.