Apple CEO Tim Cook Calls OLED Displays "awful" Is Apple Getting Desperate?

Today Apple's CEO is in the news once again, just a few days after he blamed a dead man for Apple's abuse of the US patent system. Tim Cook was speaking at Goldman Sachs' Technology and Internet conference and he had this to say about his competitors displays vs the iPhone 5:

"When you look at displays, some people are focused on size. There's a few other things about the display that are important. Some people use OLED displays, the color saturation is awful. The Retina display is twice as bright as an OLED display. I only bring these points up to say there are many attributes to the display, and what Apple does is sweat every detail. We care about all of them and we want the best display, and I think we've got it. I'm not gonna comment about what we're gonna do in the future, but it's always broader than that which can be defined by a simple number."

The first thing that must be said is that Cook does have a point. The iPhone 5 unarguably has a fantastic display. The software may be in a distant second to Android in terms of sharing, customization, speed and just general usability, but Apple invests an immense amount of time and money into fine-tuning its displays. It makes sense that Cook would take this specific attribute to highlight about his company's products. But quantifying the exact quality of a display is a complex game. Pixel density, resolution, color saturation, brightness, and several other quantifiable attributes all go into measuring the exact quality of a device's screen. Of course the HTC Butterfly is currently running the best display on any phone right now. HTC has used Sharp and JDI LCD panels to bring a truly impressive visual experience to its latest flagship smartphone. But it's obvious that Tim Cook isn't losing any sleep over HTC's sales. This quote was clearly a shot at Samsung, especially the Galaxy S III and the Galaxy Note II which have been flying off the shelves since their respective launches.

The question I would put to Mr. Cook is this: have you ever spent some time with the Galaxy S III? No, its display is not objectively superior to the iPhone 5's Retina display, but if you are going to claim that your company takes the time to "sweat every detail" that means that having a great looking display doesn't mean you have a great smart phone. I won't take the time to re-hash the plethora of ways that Apple has fallen behind in the last couple of years in terms of both software and hardware, because that fact is extremely well documented. If you are curious you can read about Apple's co-founder making this point or the founder of "Cult of Mac" discussing why he has abandoned the iPhone. Apple has always preferred talking about making great products to actually making them. And lets not forget that when Apple decided to release the iPad Mini with a fuzzy, dim, low resolution screen, they were hurting their credibility on the detail-oriented side of the argument.

I challenge anyone to hold one of Samsung's recent OLED displays in their hand and be able to honestly refer to it as "awful". But Tim Cook is a CEO, and part of his job is to talk up his company's products whenever possible. But if his company doesn't abandon the attitude that Steve Wozniak and many others have labeled "arrogant" they won't be able to give the iPhone the re-design that is so desperately needs in order to continue to be relevant in an increasingly competitive smartphone market.

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About the Author

Doug Scudder

Doug has been a fan of Android ever since he got his hands on the OG Droid a few days after it came out. Android and the mobile industry were his favorite hobbies long before he began writing about the mobile industry professionally. Doug currently resides in Chicago and you can find his musings about various TV related topics at