Display expert: Apple's Cook is right, OLED screens are awful

When it comes to judging the quality of OLED screens, display expert Raymond Soneira has Tim Cook’s back.

Soneira, president of consulting firm DisplayMate, says that Apple CEO Cook’s criticisms of the OLED displays found in some of the rivals to the iPhone were spot-on. The OLED screen in Samsung’s Galaxy S III’s, one of the chief competitors to the iPhone 5, renders colors inaccurately and is significantly less bright than the display in the new iPhone.

“It’s great to hear the CEO of Apple emphasize the importance of display color accuracy,” Soneira wrote in an email sent to reporters on Wednesday.

In an appearance at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference on Tuesday in San Francisco, Cook responded to a question about the size of the iPhone 5′s screen by talking about how Apple looks broadly at display and other technologies, focusing not on particular specifications, like screen size, but on the quality of the overall experience. In that context, he contrasted the quality of OLED screens with the iPhone 5′s LCD Retina Display.

The iPhone 5′s screen is two times brighter than an OLED display, Cook said. And the way OLEDs display colors is “awful.”

“If you ever buy anything online and you want to really know what the color is, as many people do, you should really think twice before you depend on the color … of the OLED display,” Cook said, adding that “there are many attributes of a display and what Apple does is sweat every detail.

“We care about all of them and we want the best display.”

Soneira, who regularly puts televisions, and smartphone and tablet displays through a battery of standardized tests, said in the email that, if anything, Cook’s criticism was understated. The iPhone 5′s screen is actually more than two times brighter than the OLED screen in the Galaxy S III when both are displaying a full, pure white screen, he said. Meanwhile, the colors displayed by Galaxy S III’s screen deviate significantly from the standardized color spectrum.

“The display delivers … distorted, exaggerated and gaudy colors,” Soneira said.

The color accuracy is important not just for online purchases, he said. It’s also important for “properly rendering all photos and videos so that people, scenery and all objects appear as they really are.”

So take that, OLED makers and embracers. Sounds like you’ve got your work cut out for you. And you don’t have to take Tim Cook’s word for it.

(Photo courtesy of Samsung.)

Troy Wolverton Troy Wolverton (250 Posts)

Troy writes the Tech Files column as the Personal Technology Columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. He also covers the digital media, mobile and video game industries and writes occasionally about Apple, chips, social networking and other aspects of technology. Previously, Troy covered Apple and the consumer electronics industry. Prior to joining the Mercury News, Troy reported on technology, business and financial issues for TheStreet.com and CNET News.com.