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Apple, be warned: TV picture quality not important

OLED TVs to remain minority due to price and size

As the world awaits a possible premium Apple TV it turns out that consumers choose their televisions based mainly on price and screen size rather than picture quality.

Superior-picture OLED TVs are expected to comprise less than 1 percent of flat-panel TV sales through at least 2013, reaching a mere 9 percent of units by 2017. 

See also: Apple iTV release date and rumours

In contrast LED/LCD TVs, which often offer thinner form factors and less power consumption over traditional (CCFL) LCD TVs, are expected to grow from 35 percent of the market in 2011 to 75 percent in 2017. 

See also: latest TV reviews

An Apple iTV would likely boast a top-quality screen, as seen in other Apple products such as the Retina displays in the iPhone, iPad and new MacBook Pros. See also: Apple TV review.

OLED TVs from Samsung and LG are expected to cost between $5,000 and $10,000 (£4,500 to £10,000 in the UK) at sizes less than 60 inches. Sony and Panasonic are partnering to release larger screen OLED TVs in 2013. 

At these prices consumers are challenged with selecting picture quality and form factor over size – consider that an equivalent sized LED TV costs thousands less and at these prices you are close to Sharp’s new 90” LED TV (Sharp’s 80” LED TV can be had for prices closer to £4,000).

Sony OLED TV picture quality

“Primary research conducted in the US continues to suggest most consumers place price and screen size above all other factors,” says ABI Research director Sam Rosen. 

“While display technology is cited as very important as well, the prices OLED TVs are expected to command, at least through 2013, will make it a difficult sell for most consumers.”

2012’s crop of OLED TVs are not the first as Sony introduced much smaller screens in the past, but price and screen size again conspired to make the market for OLED TVs rather limited. 

Scale will eventually bring prices down, but with LED TVs supporting form factors approaching the svelteness of OLED TVs many consumers may still opt for the less expensive alternative, limiting the rate at which scale is reached.

Senior analyst Michael Inouye added, “Picture quality is highlighted as a key benefit for OLED screens, but consumer behaviour suggests this might not engender as much perceived value as some might presuppose. 

“Higher contrast ratios and more vibrant colours while nice, will continue to lose out to screen size and price for those consumers who embrace and fully enjoy streaming video, think Blu-ray picture is good, but still enjoy DVD. 

In the end OLED TVs, at least in the beginning, will likely be more of a statement of status or strong appreciation of form factor than video quality.”

Follow Simon Jary on Twitter


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