SEOUL LG Electronics Inc started taking orders on Wednesday for organic light-emitting diode (OLED) televisions, hoping to outdo rival Samsung Electronics Co Ltd in the next-generation technology that could change the face of electronics displays.
LG Electronics and Samsung showcased 55-inch OLED TVs a year ago and they are expected to be priced up to five times higher than liquid-crystal display (LCD) equivalents when they reach store shelves next month.
Considered the future of consumer electronics displays, the OLED technology is more energy-efficient and offers higher contrast images than LCD, and is so thin that future mobile devices will be foldable like paper.
LG Electronics, the world's No.2 TV manufacturer, said it would start delivery of the new TVs from early February, with plans to display them at 1,400 retail outlets in South Korea.
They would be launched in the United States, Europe and other Asian markets during the first quarter of 2013.
In South Korea, the 55-inch model would sell for 11 million won ($10,300) - nearly four times that of LG Electronics' LED-backlit LCD model and around five times that of more common LCD versions.
The OLED launch announcement helped propel LG Electronics shares 5.4 percent higher on Wednesday, their biggest daily percentage gain in five months.
LG Display Co Ltd, which makes the OLED panel used in LG Electronics' TVs, also rose 1.8 percent.
Global OLED TV sales are forecast to explode from 50,000 units this year to 1.7 million units in 2014, according to research firm DisplaySearch. That is still only a fraction of the roughly 250 million TVs of all kinds expected to be sold worldwide in 2013.
"The launch has more of a symbolic meaning that LG has the technology ready to commercialize ahead of any of its rivals," said Sophia Kim, an analyst at Woori Investment & Securities.
"It will take another two to three years for OLED sets to become more affordable and thus commercially successful, because consumers will start buying them when prices halve to around 5 million won."
OLED displays are already used on Samsung's popular Galaxy S and Note smartphones.
But OLED panel makers such as LG Display and Samsung Display have yet to address manufacturing challenges to lower costs to compete against LCD panels.
LG and Samsung had hoped to launch OLED TVs in the second half of 2012 but manufacturing challenges meant they missed the potential windfall of hitting the U.S. market in time for the TV buying spree associated with the Superbowl in early February. ($1 = 1070.5750 Korean won)
(Reporting by Miyoung Kim; Editing by Stephen Coates and Ryan Woo)