OLED is a new display technology, used to create thin, power efficient and bright displays. Today OLEDs are used in mobile phones, tablets, digital cameras and even TV sets - as OLEDs are considered the best display technology ever.
Apple's OLED iPhone
Apple's 10th anniversary iPhone X is the company's first OLED Phone - with a 5.8" 1125x2436 (458 PPI) flexible Super AMOLED display that covers almost the entire front of the phone, HDR, dual lens camera, a Hexa-core A11 Bionic CPU, 3GB of RAM and 64/256 GB of storage.
The iPhone X carries a high price tag, starting at $999. iPhone X sales were lower than expected, which caused problems at Apple's supplier, including Samsung Display who produces the OLED displays for Apple.
It is still not clear what are Apple's plans for 2018, but it seems likely that Apple will introduce three new iPhones this year. The main model will still use an LCDs, but there will be two higher-end OLED models - a replacement for the iPhone X with a 5.8" AMOLED and a larger 6.3" or 6.5" variant. According to reports Apple wanted LG display to supply it with the larger OLED displays, but it is not clear whether LG Display will be ready with the quantities and quality Apple requires this year.
The OLED Apple Watch
The iPhone X is not Apple's first product to adopt an OLED display, though. In April 2015 Apple launched its first wearable device, the Apple Watch which used a flexible AMOLED display (made by LG Display). All Apple Watch products to date continue to use LGD's flexible OLEDs. OLED displays are especially suitable for wearable devices - as the displays are thinner and lighter than LCD displays, and are more power efficient (especially if you tweak the UI to suit the special OLED properties).
Apple OLED MacBook Pro
Apple's MacBook Pro range of high-end laptops started adopting an OLED Touch Bar instead of the traditional function keys in 2016. The display itself is either a 13" or a 15" LCD.
The OLED strip is supported by most of Apple's applications and can show commonly used emojis in messaging applications, bookmarks while you browse and other context-activated options. It also includes a Touch ID sensor that is activated for example when you wish to pay online (on supported web stores). Apple released an API to developers can support the Touch Bar in third-party applications.
The latest Apple OLED news:
Respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says that he expects Apple to switch to an all-OLED iPhone lineup in 2020 - with a high-end 6.7" and 5.4" models and a lower-end 6.1" one. The higher-end modules will also support 5G connectivity.
This confirms WSJ's report from January 2019. It is estimated by most analysts taht Apple's 2019 iPhone lineup will sport similar displays to its 2018 one (i.e. OLED on high-end modules and an LCD on the lower-end one).
In February 2019 Samsung Display started to mass produce its new 15.6" 3840x2160 OLED display panels, and some of the first 2019 OLED laptops are already shipping.
Korea-site The Elec says that according to its sources, Apple is "considering adoption" of OLED displays in its Pro laptop and tablets lines. The iPad Pro will adopt an 11" OLED while the MacBook Pro will adopt a 15.6" one.
According to Reuters Japan Display has signed a deal with Apple to supply OLED screens for Apple's 2019 Watch device. Reuters gets its information from "two sources familiar with the matter".
Samsung Electronics announced that it expects its first quarter earnings to be below market expectations - due to weakness in its display and memory businesses.
Samsung says that LCD prices have dropped more than expected and demand for its flexible OLED also declined. Analysts from Susquehanna Financial Group estimate that a weak smartphone market and a "dramatic" decline of Apple iPhone OLED orders caused Samsung Display's revenue to decline around 50% compared to Q4 2018.
Korea's ETNews reports that Samsung has shipped foldable OLED display samples to both Apple And Google. According to the report, the displays sent to Apple were 7.2" in size (just slightly smaller than the Galaxy Fold OLED display).
This is hardly a surprise - it's highly likely that all smartphone brands are now looking into foldable displays for next generation devices - and all leading brands are also likely to want to design prototypes and start looking at displays.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple plans to finally drop LCD from its iPhones in 2020 - and to use OLEDs in all of the models.
WSJ also says that Apple plans to release an ambitious 2020 iPhone lineup with "a more flexible handset design". The 2019 lineup will be an "iterative change" from the current Apple lineup - and will still use an LCD in the lower-end model.
According to Korean publication ETNews, Samsung is aiming to supply Apple with its latest Y-OCTA OLED panels for Apple's 2019 iPhones. Y-OCTA (or Youm On-Cell Touch AMOLED) is Samsung's term for its on-cell touch flexible AMOLED technology.
Y-OCTA panels are thinner than Samsung's previous flexible Add-On Touch panels as the touch sensor is deposited directly on the encapsulation (TFE) layer. The optical features are also better as the touch layer is below the polarizer and enables the use of a non-ITO grid, there's no need for a support film (see image above) and the number of layers is lower.
According to ETNews, Apple has contracted LG Display to start producing OLED panels for its smartphones. LG Display will produce the new OLEDs at its E6 production line in Paju, and will start shipping panels to Apple in December 2018.
The report says that LGD will ship around 400,000 panels to Apple by the end of 2018. The cost of each panel is around $90. This deal is important for LGD, and also for Apple as it wants to diversify its OLED supplier base. According to other reports, these LGD panels will only be used as repair panels by Apple, and will not be integrated into new iPhones.
The Washington Post's Geoffrey A. Fowler posted an interesting article in which he details how new smartphones are under-performing older ones in terms of battery life. Geoffrey puts 12 smartphones to the same test, and checks which ones dies first.
It is interesting that the new 2018 smartphones under performs similar smartphones released in 2017. Geoffrey's conclusion is that new display technology - high resolution OLEDs, are the culprit. The main reasoning behind that is that the iPhone XR (with its LCD display) performs better than the iPhone XS, even though the XR has a smaller display.
In 2017 Apple introduced its first OLED iPhone (the iPhone X), and in 2018 its smartphone range include 2 OLED phones (the iPhone XS and XS Max) and one LCD phone. Earlier estimates suggested that in 2019, Apple's will move exclusively to OLED in all of its smartphones. But a new report suggests otherwise.
Known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says that in 2019 Apple will continue to use an LCD display in its entry-level smartphone. The 2019 range will include two OLED iPhones (5.8" and 6.5") and the LCD model will use a 6.1" display - a similar lineup to the one they have in 2018.