New TV Innovations on Hold? Blame COVID

The wake emanating from the COVID-19 pandemic is now challenging the roll-out of new consumer television technology originally pegged for 2020 launches. Some high-profile and high-priced TVs face delays as the fourth quarter draws near and uncertainty continues.

Several major TV brands have been silent on previously announced ETAs of high-profile television models with new display technology or premium feature sets. In some cases, this has been caused by hardships related to COVID-19 safety measures, but more typically, several companies have had to reassess their 2020 product delivery plans given the difficult climate.

In addition to diminished demand for high-end TVs, the limited access to retail salespeople who are qualified to give proper product demonstrations makes it difficult for consumers to appreciate some of these improvements in consumer electronics.

Among the delayed products are LG’s rollable 4K OLED TV (postponed from a year ago), Samsung’s 2020 edition MicroLED displays (dubbed The Wall), and Hisense’s Dual Cell 4K LED-LCD TVs.

Meanwhile, sources report the formal debut of official North American products for China’s Skyworth TV brand is being focused on better-performing LED-LCD TV models due this fall. However, the splashy 4K OLED TVs shown at CES 2020 are likely not in the game plan for North America until 2021. Like others, Skyworth will only have a virtual CES 2021 to work with next year.

It’s a similar story for the relaunch of China’s Konka North America brand. The company is still planning for a late 2020 TV debut of some high-performing Quantum Dot-enhanced 4K LED-LCD TV lines. No longer on the agenda this year, though, is Konka’s once prominently positioned 4K OLED TV models. These models are now being moved back to 2021, according to a Konka marketing executive.

The company said the OLED redirection was not related to COVID or panel shortages but was simply “a business decision based on customer feedback and a reassessment of which series were best for a cohesive and focused” first-year brand launch. It’s difficult not to conclude that the softening of high-end TV sales and other pandemic-related problems also influenced the decision.

Nevertheless, it’s logical to speculate that difficulties in delivering new products inside a 2020 window would spill over to new products earmarked for 2021. This includes introductions like Samsung’s new QD-OLED hybrid TVs and its Quantum Nano Emitting Diode (QNED) displays.

Reports out of South Korea, citing anonymous sources, indicate that Samsung Display is faced with a possible delay of its new giant screen MicroLED TVs’ commercial launch.

Samsung showed off six new MicroLED displays in January, including four consumer models that range between 75 and 110 inches, and two commercial displays aimed at businesses that measure 150 and 292 inches, respectively.

In Samsung’s approach, called “The Wall,” smaller MicroLED panels are fitted together to assemble a singular display of variable screen sizes. The latest evolution offered small pixel pitch to produce large screens with 8K resolution. MicroLED panels contain millions of microscopic LEDs that emit their own light. This produces images of greater brightness, wider viewing angles, rich colors, no risk of burn-in, and up to 100,000 hours of expected use. Samsung hopes that MicroLED tech will evolve to a stage where it becomes one of the primary display technologies used in the commercial television business, replacing today’s LED-LCD TVs and even OLED TVs.

Hisense, also in this high-end game, showcased promising new Dual Cell LED-LCD TV technology early this year with the possibility that products would be ready for market by year-end. But like other emerging TV technologies, the status of Dual Cell TVs is now “to be determined.”

It seems as if “to be determined” is today’s one-size-fits-all response to “What does the tech future hold?”