Deja Vu: LG and Samsung both the first to sell curved OLED TV in the US?

Who-really-built-the-world’s-first-curved-OLEDOnce again, Samsung and LG are going tit for tat as they move their respective curved OLED televisions forward. Developments over the past few hours seem strangely reminiscent of those witnessed earlier this year at CES 2013, when both South Korean manufacturers seemed to have pulled curved OLED TVs out of their hats almost simultaneously, at the last possible minute. Regardless, today we learn that both Samsung and LG have curved OLED televisions landing on US soil right now.

In a statement, LG announced that its 55EA9800 curved OLED TV is both the first OLED to be sold in the United States and the first OLED to achieve THX’s display certification. The first unit was unveiled today at Best Buy’s flagship Magnolia Design Center store in Richfield, Minn. LG says that Magnolia stores in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, Dallas, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle and San Antonio will begin selling the curvy, ultra-thin TV at a suggested price of $15,000 in the coming weeks. By the end of summer, LG intends to have its curved OLED in Magnolia stores inside Best Buy outlets nationwide.

The news comes on the heels of word that Samsung has also readied curved OLED TVs for sale in the U.S., though seemingly at much fewer quantities (at least for the time being). Robert Zohn, owner of Value Electronics in Scarsdale, NY., told us his store would have Samsung’s KN55S9 in stock early this week. A recent report by CNET indicates that Zohn does expect the TVs to arrive soon, and that they will also be priced at $15,000 – a figure which will reportedly include professional calibration and delivery. As of now, Samsung has yet to issue an official statement regarding the availability of the KN55S9, and refused to comment for this story.

Two things about these developments strike us as odd: The last-minute nature of LG’s announcement and the fact that we’re seeing curved OLEDs make their US debut ahead of flat-screen OLEDs.

Samsung Curved OLED TV

The arrival of an OLED TV in the US has been highly anticipated. Nearly every step in that direction has been chronicled by the media, with plenty of advance notice and disclosure provided by both Samsung and LG. And yet, these latest product debuts seem hurried; if LG unveils an OLED in the middle of a Best Buy but no one is there to see it, did it actually happen? If Samsung is finally selling its OLED in the US, why is the only confirmation we can get from a single retailer in New York?

LG accompanied its announcement with a press release issued during the Best Buy event, and we don’t expect Samsung to remain silent for very long. Nevertheless, in an era when major product announcements are increasingly treated like blockbuster movie openings, we find this week’s OLED news to be curious. 

We also see it as strange that both companies would choose to introduce curved OLED screens ahead of the flat-panel variety that has been in development for years. OLED’s ability to produce a stunning picture with reference black levels, intense brightness and eye-popping color is notable enough. Why push the curved version? Who asked for a curved version, anyway? Would it not make more sense to get deep-pocketed buyers on board with OLED’s stunning capabilities first before trying to get them to buy into a literally re-shaped TV?  

The coming weeks may see some answers. Then again, they may not. Either way, OLED is here, and if LG and Samsung’s blatant competitiveness in this product category is anything to go by, it is probably here to stay.

 [Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify that LG issued its press release during the Best Buy event in Minnesota and that the event had been in the planning stages for two weeks]

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