LG's latest 55-inch curved OLED TV on show at its headquarters in Yeoui-do, Seoul on Sunday. The TV will sell for 3.99 million won at major stores from September 29. / Courtesy LG Electronics
Now W3.99 mil. from W15 mil a year ago
By Kim Yoo-chul
OLED, an organic light-emitting diode, has been considered the perfect next-generation technology for television, with remarkable clarity of image and flexible super-thin screens.
But amid the rise of large-sized smartphones, tablets and advanced hybrid PCs, the future of OLED TVs is not so rosy because OLED production still faces challenging technological issues that hugely increases the price of the panels.
An OLED TV costs twice as much as a same-size mainstream LCD TV with the same channels. Because of this, consumers are not ready to pay more for premium OLED TVs, regarding style and improved picture quality as just "secondary factors."
But LG Electronics hopes prove that its "OLED: The Future of TV" phrase is not just marketing hype ― the company has slashed the price of its latest curved 55-inch OLED TV in Korea.
"From September 29, LG's 55-inch curved OLED TV (55EC9300) will be sold for 3.99 million won per unit throughout major retail channels and department stores in Korea," LG said in a statement on Sunday.
The announcement came as a surprise, because since early last year LG has been offering a same-size OLED unit with a different model number (55EA9800) for 15 million won.
"LG is pushing to widen the availability of OLED TVs," said Huh Jae-cheol, an executive at its home-entertainment division, which handles LG's television business.
"Just five millimeters deep, the embedded W-RGB OLED technology achieves brilliant, precise colors, infinite contrast with deep, convincing black, and utterly smooth, judder and blur-free fast-moving images," said the LG statement.
"The LG TV supports the Web OS platform, offering easier access to users."
LG leads the world OLED TV market, because cross-town rival Samsung Electronics has chosen to focus more on small OLEDs for Galaxy Note, Galaxy Tab and Galaxy smartphones.
Samsung preparing OLED TVs?
LG Electronics plans to press ahead by narrowing the cost difference between comparable OLED TV panels and LCDs.
An LG executive would not estimate how many of its OLED TVs could be sold this year.
But market analysts said the LG decision would awaken idling demand for OLED TVs.
"This is a bold decision, which means LG has opted for market share rather than profitability," said a senior fund manager at a U.S.-based investment bank in Seoul. "We believe Samsung will also jump into the emerging market."
Samsung's sole "true RGB OLED TV," the curved and full high-definition 55-inch KE55S9C, cost more than $8,500 when it was launched in the U.K. last October.
The reason for this price gap is LG's four-color W-RGB technology (which adds a white sub-pixel to the usual red, green and blue mix) and pixel-dimming system. This system makes it far easier to produce OLED panels than Samsung's RGB method, which has been difficult to commercialize.
Samsung is one of the few tech companies in the world that can guarantee on-time delivery, output commitment and better pricing ― so it can ill-afford to lose out in the OLED TV market.
To this end, Samsung is investing $38 million in a California-based OLED startup called Kateeva. The U.S. company has unveiled a revolutionary inkjet printing resolution, which it claims can slash the OLED manufacturing costs while boosting production.
Despite doubts that technology will be ready in time, Kateeva says large-sized OLED TV panels will be ready by next year.
And that means, according to officials, that Samsung will also be ready for OLED TVs, fueling more competition in the market that LG leads.