Industry News September/October 2017 Issue 5

By Jenny Donelan

HMD Global/Nokia and ZEISS Form Partnership, Release Flagship Phone

If all goes according to company plan, Nokia smartphones will soon regain some of their former luster. The Finnish company HMD Global, which operates Nokia’s phone business, and ZEISS, a German maker of optical and measurement systems, recently announced a partnership that (according to a joint press release), “aims to set new imaging standards within the smartphone industry.”1 For decades, Nokia phones, including the 2013 Lumia 1020 with its PureView camera technology, were some of the most highly regarded mobile devices on the market.2 (ZEISS was a partner during some of that period.) In 2013, Nokia’s mobile phone division was sold to Microsoft, after which Nokia-branded phones weren’t developed or marketed as rigorously as before. In 2016, however, HMD and FIH Mobile, a division of Foxconn, purchased Nokia’s mobile phone business from Microsoft and announced plans to release a line of higher end Android-based smartphones.3 In fact, the Nokia 8, the company’s first “flagship” phone in years, was announced in August 2017.4

The new phone (Fig. 1) has a 5.3-in. LC display (2,560 × 1,440) and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor with 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. The company is promoting the camera aspect – the ZEISS optics on the front and rear cameras both have 13-megapixel sensors. A dual-camera array at the rear also includes a monochrome camera. Nokia 8 will broadcast video (with the front and rear cameras) to Facebook or YouTube natively through the camera interface. There is also 360-degree audio for live streaming.

Whether the HMD Global acquisition and the renewed relationship between ZEISS and Nokia will make these phones competitive in the high-end range is yet to be seen. What is more certain, however, is that new players and new devices create a healthier and more interesting market.

Fig. 1:  Nokia’s new smartphone, the Nokia 8, is designed to help put the company back on the map with regard to high-performing smartphones.

Foxconn Announces Plans to Build LCD Fab in Wisconsin

CEO Terry Gou of Foxconn, the Taiwan-based contract electronics maker, announced over the summer in a press conference with US President Donald Trump and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in attendance that Foxconn plans to build a 20,000-square-foot LCD fab in Wisconsin. Foxconn is the maker of Apple’s iPhone and is also a supplier to Amazon, Microsoft, Nokia, and Sony, among other major companies. It is the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer. If plans for the facility go through, it would be the first time for Foxconn to manufacture displays in the US.

The LCD panels that would be produced in Wisconsin would be for TV maker Sharp, which was purchased last year by Foxconn’s parent company, Hon Hai.1 Foxconn Technology Group would receive up to $2.85 billion in cash payments from the state in exchange for building an up-to-$10-billion flat -screen plant and hiring up to 13,000 workers.2

Making large panels in the US to be used for US products would presumably reduce shipping costs, as well as any applicable tariffs. In addition, such a large facility would provide jobs for thousands of workers and be an overall boon to the Wisconsin economy.

At press time, however, Gov. Walker's administration was seeking to tighten job creation requirements as part of the deal.2And Ohio Governor John Kasich, whose state is currently “pitching” Foxconn for a manufacturing deal of its own, spoke negatively of the tax incentive deal made between Foxconn and the state of Wisconsin. New analysis, he said, shows that the deal may provide fewer jobs and less revenue than previously predicted. The state might not break even on a deal with Foxconn until 2042.3

Foxconn actually announced a US manufacturing initiative back in 2016, according to IHS Markit analyst David Hsieh. In a recent article in his technology blog, “Foxconn Sharp intends to build LCD fabs in US: but is it practical?” Hsieh wrote that the company was also considering a Gen 6 fab in Michigan.

In fact, there are pros and cons for both Foxconn and the US, Hsieh wrote in his blog: “All told, it makes sense for the Foxconn Sharp group to build fabs in the US, given the growing demand for panels by both the global and US markets, and also for the company to expand its business. Having a US-based LCD fab could also gain Foxconn a measure of political goodwill, since the investments that are needed will stimulate local employment and economics. On the other hand, such a move is rife with challenges — among them the substantial use of natural and human resources alike, as well as the painstaking process of building a supply chain from the ground up.”4

In the past, plans to build Foxconn plants in the US have fallen through; a 2013 proposal to build a large facility in Harrisburg, PA, did not work out. Still, it would be exciting to have large panels made once again in the country where TVs were invented, said Gou.5




Gamma Scientific Intros Compact Spectroradiometer/Flicker Meter

Gamma Scientific’s new GS-1160B spectroradiometer is a compact industrial spectroradiometer/flicker meter designed for fast, accurate, and repeatable display measurements (Fig. 2).

It features an extensive suite of analysis capabilities for display designers, manufacturers, and engineers in a lightweight package. The instrument is about the size of a mobile phone (204 mm × 90 mm × 45 mm), weighs 620 grams, and is suitable for color and intensity measurement of all display types including LCD, LED, OLED, and quantum dot.

The GS-1160 delivers key display measurement capabilities for color chromaticity, gamma, white balance adjustment, contrast, flicker (VESA and JEITA), and uniformity. Its luminance measurement range is from 0.05 to 5,000 cd/m2, with CIE 1931 and CIE 1976 color chromaticity output, and fast integration time down to 100 µsec.

Fig. 2:  Gamma Scientific’s new benchtop spectroradiometer/flicker meter combines light weight and a small footprint with a wide array of measurement capabilities.

LG’s Next Smartphone to Feature Plastic OLED Display

The next flagship smartphone from LG Electronics will feature the company’s plastic OLED FullVision display, which follows the trend toward curved edges and minimized bezels in smartphones (Fig. 3).

The 6-in. FullVision display will be LG’s largest in four years, and will include 4.15 million pixels in the QHD+ (1,440 × 2,880) panel. According to LG, the display will deliver 148 percent of the sRGB1 color space for digital images and 109 percent of the DCI-P32 color space for digital cinema. The phone’s plastic substrate will be protected by Corning’s shatter-resistant Gorilla Glass 5. LG also reports that its advanced encapsulation and pixel-scanning technology all but eliminates the burn-in issue that has affected OLED technology in the past. Encapsulation reduces oxidation of the pixels and the pixel-scanning technology allows for less energy to be applied to each pixel, also saving battery power.

The phone was scheduled for an official release at the end of summer 2017.

Fig. 3:  At press time, LG was revealing only this teaser photo of the new smartphone. Although it shows just the bottom portion of the phone, the thin bezel and rounded edges are clearly visible.

Apple Readies 3 Phones for Fall Announcement

A variety of sources, including Forbes1 and CNET2, have reported that Apple will reveal new smartphones in September, as usual, in a set of three, as usual. There will be two LCD models (upgrades to the 7 series) and one OLED (the iPhone 8), marking Apple’s first phone based on the emissive technology. Sources also say that while the LCD models will be immediately available, there may be a delay of several months for the OLED device.

Alongside this information exists a swirl of rumors about features that will or will not be included in the iPhone 8 – touch ID, facial ID, virtual home button, astronomical price tag, fast charging, new colors, old colors, etc. So while we do know there will be new phones announced this fall, and that one of them will almost certainly be Apple’s first OLED iPhone, we’ll have to wait for the big reveal to find out more. •