Editors' pick: Originally published Nov. 28.
The Cupertino, CA-based company could roll out an iPhone with a curved screen as soon as next year, just in time for the iPhone's 10th birthday, Apple's display suppliers told the Wall Street Journal.
Curved screens are powered by organic LED displays, which pack better color reproduction and don't require a backlight, which results in a thinner phone. But they're also more expensive and more difficult to produce than traditional LED screens.
An OLED phone would likely be released alongside several other models, and could also be rejected during the prototype phase in favor of alternative models, according to the Wall Street Journal's sources.
The design would be similar to Samsung's Galaxy S7 Edge in that the screen would wrap around the sides of the phone. It could have an "active screen area" of 5.1 to 5.2 inches, but the screen panel could be up to 5.8 inches diagonally, according to 9to5mac.com, which references a report from market research firm KGI Securities published earlier this month.
Currently, Apple's largest iPhone is the 7 Plus, which has a 5.5 inch screen.
The KGI report also noted that an iPhone OLED panel would be supplied exclusively by Samsung.
Several companies stand to benefit from a ramp-up in OLED screen demand, including Universal Display Corp. (OLED) , Applied Materials (AMAT) and Coherent (COHR) . Applied Materials produces OLED technologies, while Coherent sells lasers used in display production.
Universal Display counts Samsung's display unit and Sony and LG's display arms among its customers. The Trenton, NJ-based company also maintains more than 3,000 OLED patents and supplies OLED panel materials.
Apple's most recent 10-K report could signal that the company is moving to enter the OLED screen space, according to a Nov. 8 note from JPMorgan Analyst Rod Hall. In the filing, Apple outlined $4 billion in long-term purchase commitments, which could be related to OLED orders from Samsung, Hall noted.
Samsung is believed to be the leading OLED screen producer, but the company may not have the production capacity to make screens for a new line of iPhones, according to Bloomberg.
This could force Apple to remain on the sidelines of OLED smartphone retailers for the time being, pushing it behind the models already released by Samsung and privately-held Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi.