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 was the company's first OLED Phone - with a 5.8" 1125x2436 (458 PPI) flexible Super AMOLED display. Since then Apple has been adding more OLED iPhones, and as of 2021, the company's entire smartphone lineup adopts AMOLED displays.
The OLED Apple Watch
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 flexible AMOLED displays. 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). According to reports, Apple is developing next-generation MicroLED display technologies for future wearable devices.
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:
Omdia: OLED shipments in Q2 2021 will reach 110 million units, details its flexible OLED 2020-2021Q2 estimates
Market research company Omdia says that flexible OLED shipments in Q2 2021 reach 57 million units,a 54.1% increase over Q2 2020 (but a 35% drop compared to Q1 2021, due to seasonality and lower orders by Apple). Rigid OLED shipments will reach 53 million units in Q2 2021.
The leading flexible OLED maker is Samsung Display, which will ship 39.1 million flexible OLED panels in Q2 2021 (a 61.6% increase over Q1 2020). LG Display will ship 10.6 million units of flexible OLEDs, an increase of 55.9% over last year. The third largest producer, BOE, will ship 7.9 million units, a 31.9% drop from last year, as orders Huawei are shrinking.
Last year DSCC estimated that the foldable OLED market will grow to 94 million panels by 2025. DSCC now updated its forecasts, and lowered its estimates to 75.6 million units in 2025.
DSCC sees Apple starting to adopt foldable OLEDs in 2023, which will boost the total market and will lead to other companies adopting foldable displays. DSCC expects foldable and rollable panels to grow at an 87.5% CAGR from 2020 to 2025. Smartphones will dominate with a market share of over 92% during the entire forecast period.
Apple's latest iPad Pro tablets use a mini-LED backlit LCD (which Apple refers to as Liquid Retina XDR). This relatively new display technology is seen as a way to achieve almost OLED-quality contrast ratio and an improved power consumption as the thousands of small LEDs enable very small dimming zones.
While most reviews of the new display are quite positive, some users are complaining of "blooming" - the edges of bright objects on dark backgrounds tend to 'bleed' as the dimming zone is not small enough.
Trusted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says that Apple is developing its first foldable smartphone, planning to release it in 2023. The company plans to sell up to 20 million units in the first year of production.
The Apple foldable smartphone's current design uses a 8-inch 3200x1800 display. Samsung Display is expected to be the exclusive supplier of this high-end display.
In past years Apple had to pay millions of dollars to Samsung Display as a compensation for lower smartphone OLED orders. Apple is committed to buy a certain amount of displays, and this payment is a fine due to lower orders.
Due to lower OLED orders in 2021, analysts estimate that Apple, again, will have to compensate Samsung. The main fault is with lower sales of Apple's iPhone 12 mini. In total, according to reports, Apple reduced its OLED Orders for the iPhone 12 series by 20% to 75 million units in the first half of 2021.
According to reports online, there's a global chip shortage, that is already effecting some industries - and is not threatening the supply of Samsung's smartphone AMOLED displays.
It seems as if high demand for chips due to the covid-19 pandemic, a water shortage in Taiwan and heavy snow in Texas all combined to create a shortage is chip supply. Samsung's Austin plant, which makes Qualcomm chips used in AMOLED drivers, has been halted since February 16th and this creates concern for Samsung's ability to supply enough AMOLED displays to satisfy demand.
In late 2020 several reports from Korea suggested that Apple is looking to adopt OLEDs in future iPad devices, as early as in 2022.
According to Ming-Chi Kuo, a usually reliable Apple analyst, Apple is looking to adopt an OLED display in the 2022 iPad Air (while the MacBook Air will start using miniLED LCDs). MiniLEDs are actually more expensive than OLEDs today (these iPad OLEDs will be the cheaper rigid variant) and so cheaper iPads or laptops will use OLEDs from 2022 and onwards, while more expensive models will opt for miniLEDs which do not suffer from burn-in.
In November 2020 it was reported that BOE did not pass Apple's OLED quality test for the iPhone 12. Later it was suggested that BOE did manage to enter Apple's supply chain, although perhaps only for aftermarket (refurbished models) panels.
According to new reports from China and Korea, BOE has been finally approved as a third OLED supplier (besides Samsung Display and LG Display) for Apple's iPhone 12 - the mini and standard models (and not the higher-end iPhone 12 Pro).
According to reports in Japan (by Nikkei Asia), Apple has teamed up with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) to develop OLED microdisplay technologies for Apple's upcoming AR products.
The reports says that TSMC is also doing trial production of microdisplays, but it will take several years before mass production is achieved. Apple's OLED microdisplay research is performed at its Taoyuan labs, where the company is also developing microLED technologies. It is reported that Apple is publicly looking for employees with OLED expertise in Taiwan.
A report from Korea suggests that Samsung will be the exclusive supplier for Apple' LTPO AMOLED displays used in the next iPhone devices. Apple will adopt LTPO, according to the report, in the two higher-end modules in 2021. These models will also support a 120Hz refresh rate.
It was already reported that Apple aims to adopt LTPO in future iPhone displays. It was assumed that LG Display will also be able to produce such displays, but apparently that will only happen in 2022. Samsung already produces such smartphone displays, adopted in the Note 20 Ultra (Samsung brands this technology as Adaptive Frequency or hybrid oxide and polycrystalline silicon, or HOP).