OLED displays use organic materials that emit light when electricity is applied. OLEDs enable emissive, bright, thin, flexible and efficient displays - and so OLEDs are set to replace LCDs in all display applications - from small displays to large TV sets.
AMOLED displays today are used in many applications - and are most common in smartphones. Samsung for example uses AMOLED displays in most of its high-end phones, including the latest Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus and the Note 9. Apple's new iPhones, SmarthWatches, and the MacBook Pro's Touch Bar are all using AMOLEDs. Other AMOLED devices include smartphones from Huawie, Sony, Xiaomi and others.
AMOLED displays are also used in OLED TVs - which are mostly available from LG. OLED TV screens range from 55" to 77" (88" 8K ones are coming in 2019), and are considered to be the best TV panels ever produced. In 2019 we will have the first rollable OLED TV - LG's 65" Signature OLED R.
AMOLED: Active Matrix OLED
The term AMOLED means Active-Matrix OLED. The 'active-matrix' part refers to the driving electronics, or the TFT layer. When you display an image, you actually display it line by line (sequentially) as you can only change one line at a time. An AMOLED uses a TFT which contains a storage capacitor which maintains the line pixel states, and so enables large size (and large resolution) displays.
AMOLED vs PMOLED
A PMOLED uses a simpler kind of driver electronics - without a storage capacitor. This means that each line is turned off when you move to the next line. So let's say you have 10 rows in your display - each row will only be on 1/10 of the time. The brightness of each row has to be 10 times the brightness you'd get in an AMOLED. So you use more voltage which shortens the lifetime of the OLED materials and also results in a less efficient display. So while PMOLEDs are cheaper to make than AMOLEDs they are limited in size and resolution (the largest PMOLED is only 5", and most of them are around 1" to 3"). Most PMOLEDs are used for character display, and not to show photos or videos.
Flexible, foldable and rollable AMOLEDs
One of the main advantages of AMOLED displays is that they can be made flexible. Flexible AMOLEDs are already popular for many years in smartphones and wearables, and in 2019 we will experience the first foldable devices and rollable screens.
Several companies are developing large transparent AMOLED displays - and in past years we've seen many prototypes - including a large 55" Full-HD transparent TV. But this technology is not commercial yet, mostly it seems because there are no useful applications that will convince the display makers to mass produce such panels.
Looking to buy an AMOLED display?
Are you looking to adopt an AMOLED display for your device? Several producers are already making panels - including Samsung Display, LG Display, EverDisplay, Truly, Visionox and more. AMOLEDs on the market range from small 1-inch ones for smartwatches through large OLEDs used in tablets and laptops - to large TV panels.
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The latest AMOLED news:
The Verge posted a review of one of the world's first 2019 OLED laptops, the HP 2019 Spectre x360 15. The reviewer loves the OLED display: "The Spectre x360 15’s display is tremendous, and I see no reason why someone would pick an LCD over this OLED, given the option. It’s absolutely worth the higher cost (Ed: around $400)."
HP's Spectre x360 15 features an Intel Core i7 CPU, 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of SSD storage. The OLED display is a 15.6" 3840x2160 panel produced by SDC. HP's Spectre x360 15 laptops are now shipping, the OLED models start at $2,299.
DSCC published an interesting note, detailing the world's top 10 devices by flexible AMOLED sales in the first half of 2019. The list contains only three vendors: Samsung, Apple and Huawei.
Total flexible AMOLED revenues for these ten devices are almost $4.7 billion, and Samsung phones account for 53% ($2.5 billion). Apple has only 2 leading models, but accounts for 30% of the revenues ($1.4 billion) and Huawei phones generated $723 million in flexible AMOLED revenues.
Huawei launched its Watch GT smartwatch in October 2018, and the company announced it shipped over 2 million units so far. This is great news for Huawei - although its not clear how the recent US ban on Huawei will effect future sales.
The Watch GT has a 1.39" 454x454 round AMOLED display (likely made by AU Optronics) and features an optical 6-LED heart rate sensor, a GPS and a power-saving algorithm that allows the Watch GT to have a claimed 2-week battery life for frequent use mode. The Watch GT is now shipping starting at $199.99 (note: affiliate link to Amazon).
According to a report from Korea, when Apple secured its flexible AMOLED supply from Samsung for the iPhone X (and later XS and XS Plus) it committed to a minimum order quantity. As sales of the iPhones were slower than expected, the company did not reach its MOQ, and is now facing penalties of hundreds of millions of dollars.
It seems as if Apple is reluctant to pay the penalty (which isn't a big surprise) and is offering some alternative routes for Samsung - including the option of ordering OLED displays for future iPads or laptops (this coincides with a report from Korea last month).
China-based CSoT demonstrated a foldable OLED prototype at SID DisplayWeek 2019, I believe this is the first time the company has shown a foldable display.
CSoT recently started pilot production at its 6-Gen LTPS flexible AMOLED production line in Wuhan and the company already achieved some design wins with "top-class" phone makers and is expected to start shipping OLED displays to its customers in Q4 2019. The Wuhan fab will have a monthly production capacity of 45,000 6-Gen substrates.
JD.com, a popular online retailer in China, says that sales of the OnePlus 7 Pro are more than ten times higher than the sales of Samsung's flagship Galaxy S10 Plus (which has a comparable display size). JD says that there were 250,372 OnePlus units sold - compared to only 23,266 GS10+ units.
The OnePlus 7 Pro is the company's flagship smartphone that features a large 6.67" 90Hz 1440x3120 Fluid AMOLED (which is apparently a 90Hz Super AMOLED) full-screen display with an under-the-display fingerprint sensor. The GS10+ sports a 6.4" 60Hz 3040x1440 (522 PPI) Super AMOLED display.
In February 2019 Huawei launched its first foldable smartphone, the Mate X with a 8" 2200x2480 foldable AMOLED display that folds outwards. Huawei said it will launch the Mate X by the end of June, but now the company says it is now planning to release it in September.
Huawei says that it needs more time to test the device and make sure it is durable. It is also possible that the US ban on Huawei is behind this decision.
China-based BOE Display demonstrated many OLED displays at SID 2019, including new flexible, foldable, rollable and automotive AMOLED displays. Here's a video showing the company's complete SID lineup:
UBI Research says that 110 million AMOLED panels were produced and shipped in Q1 2019, a slight decrease of 0.4% from Q1 2018.
The top AMOLED producer is still of course Samsung Display, which produced 82 million units (75% market share). SDC's revenues were $5.09 billion, down from $5.86 billion in Q1 2018.
Visionox collaborated with visual processing developer PixelWorks to demonstrate how PixelWork's power efficient processors can enhance the visual quality of Visionox's flexible OLED displays. The demo was based a 5.9" 2160x1080 60Hz flexible AMOLED display.
PixelWorks' Iris platform provides a cost effective solution to provide high-end TV-like HDR experience on a smartphone. The processor enables automatic adaptive displays (that can adapt to the ambient conditions, the content on display, color temperatures and more).