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 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 suppliers, including Samsung Display who produces the OLED displays for Apple.
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:
DSCC posted an interesting article detailing their estimates for the production costs and prices of choice flexible and foldable AMOLED displays, in China and in Korea.
We'll start with the chart above, which compares the prices and quotes of several flexible OLEDs produced by Samsung in Korea. DSCC says that as the profitability of Samsung's OLED business is highly dependent on fab utilization, it is currently losing money on this business as the yields in its flexible OLED lines are only 38% - and fixed costs such as personnel and depreciation cannot be decreased. Having said that, DSCC sees higher utilization in the next two quarters, which will result in profitability for SDC's OLED unit.
Samsung Display is updating its A3 flexible OLED production line, to support two new technologies. The TFT process is being updated, for some of the capacity, to Apple's LTPO technology. LTPO is currently used in Apple's Watch displays, but next-generation iPhones will adopt it as well.
According to UBI, Samsung will dedicate 75,000 monthly substrates to produce smartphone LTPO displays. According to some reports, Samsung has also developed its own backplane technology which is similar to LTPO, it could be that some of this capacity will be used for Samsung's own displays.
Earlier this year, reports from Korea suggested that Samsung Electronics is looking to order some OLED panels from China's BOE - including for its flagship S21 smartphone to be announced later this year.
A new report from Korea's DDaily suggests that BOE failed to pass Samsung's display quality test. Samsung Electronics is likely to retain Samsung Display (partly owned by SE) as an exclusive AMOLED supplier for its 2020-2021 smartphones.
DSCC says that OLED revenues in Q1 2020 were $6.7 billion (up 24% from Q1 2019, but down 18% from Q4 2019). Both Samsung and BOE gained market share in the quarter, as LGD had a weak quarter.
DSCC sees the entire OLED market reaching $33 billion in 2020 (up 18% from 2019). Smartphone OLED sales will reach $26.6 billion, mostly led by a growth in flexible OLED sales. The OLED TV market will grow 19% to 4 million units in 2020. DSCC sees the laptop OLED market increasing significantly in 2020.
The Elec reports that Apple ordered around 55 million AMOLED panels for its iPhone 12 smartphone series, which will be announced later this year. LG Display will supply around around 20 million AMOLEDs - which is a big increase from the 5 million OLEDs LGD supplied for Apple's previous generation phones.
According to The Elec, LG will supply the panels for Apple's iPhone 12 Max (6.1"), while Samsung will supply all the panels for the iPhone 12 (5.4"), iPhone 12 Pro (6.1") and iPhone 12 Pro max (6.7").
DSCC posted an interesting blog post, in which they detail what they believe to be Apple's iPhone 12 smartphone family specifications.
So we start with the iPhone 12, which will use a 5.42" 2348x1048 (476 PPI) flexible AMOLED display, produced by Samsung Display. DSCC believes the iPhone 12 will use a Y-OCTA integrated touch. DSCC believes that while BOE did not manage to get its panel to the iPhone 12, it may become a supplier in 2021 to the iPhone 12s - if all goes well with the iPhone 12 Max (see below).
LG Display reports disappointing results for Q1 2020 as COVID-19 lowers demand for smartphones and TVs
LG Display reported its financial results for Q1 2020. LGD's revenues were 4.7 trillion Won ($3.8 billion USD), decreased 26% from the previous quarter and 20% from Q1 2019. The company's net loss in the quarter was 199 billion Won ($161 million USD).
LGD's revenues and earnings were below analysts expectations - the company's business was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic which caused lower demand for smartphones and TV panels (which were also hit due to the postponing of major sporting events). LCD panel prices have also taken a hit.
Towards the end of 2019 LG Display started to supply Apple with 6.1" film-touch OLED flexible displays for its 2020 iPhone, and IHS Markit now says that these shipments propelled LGD's OLED smartphone market share to 10.8% in Q4 2019 (up from only 2.1% in Q3 2019).
In fact LGD now says that mobile OLED revenues make up for 36% of its total revenues in Q4 - which is higher than its OLED TV revenues for the first time ever.
Apple's latest flagship iPhone displays all use OLED screens, and Apple is charging a hefty fee for a screen replacement - $280 if you do not have AppleCare. Another option is to buy the OLED screen from a vendor - at a lower cost, and perform the replacement yourself.
One such vendor is iFixit - and the screens still cost around $185 for the iPhone Xs and $155 for the iPhone X. iFixit is now offering a lower cost alternative - replace the OLED with an LCD display, which costs around $100 less than the fancier OLED option.
In November 2019 ETNews reported that LG Display will supply Apple with 6.1" film-touch OLED flexible displays for its 2020 iPhones. Samsung will also supply the same displays (in a 50:50 split) in addition to 5.4" and 6.7" OLEDs that will support Samsung's on-cell touch (Y-OCTA).
According to a new report by ETNews, LG Display is set to update its E6 flexible OLED production line to support two new technologies - LTPO and on-cell touch, which LG calls TOC. ETNews says that LG's E6 line is dedicated to Apple - currently it produces 6.5" 2688x1242 OLEDs used in the iPhone 11 Pro Max.