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:
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).
A new report from China suggests that BOE finally managed to enter Apple's supply chain for its iPhone devices. Only last month it was reported that BOE did not pass Apple's OLED quality test.
According to the report BOE will start supplying AMOLED displays to Apple before the end of 2020. In 2021, BOE will ship 10 million AMOLED displays to Apple. LGD will supply 40 million panels while Samsung will supply 130 million panels.
Last month we posted that the Korean Elec publication claims that Apple is aiming to adopt OLEDs in its next iPad Pro devices - and as Apple wants extended lifetime from these panels, the Korean panel makers are developing tandem OLED devices (easier for LG as it is already producing such panels for automotive applications).
Today another Korean publication, ETNews, has posted that Apple is aiming to start using OLEDs in its iPads in 2022. According to ETNews, Apple indeed reached out to both LG Display and Samsung Display for these OLEDs.
DSCC says that OLED panel revenues will reach almost $12 billion in Q4 2020 - reaching an all-time high (up 46% from Q4 2019) as all the major OLED markets, smartphones, TVs and smartwatches, saw increased demand.
One of the major drivers for the increased Q4 demand was Apple's later-than-usual release date which pushed orders into Q4 from Q3, and an earlier Samsung S21 release which meant SDC started producing panels for Samsung Electronics's upcoming flagship as early as November. DSCC estimates that Apple will account for 57% of all OLED smartphone panel revenues in the quarter.
In a very interesting post, The Elec states that Apple has reached out to both Samsung Display and LG Display, requesting that the display suppliers develop a longer-lifetime OLED display for Apple's next iPad Pro devices.
LG 12.8-inch P-OLED in Mercedes Benz 2021 S-Class
The lifetime of the current crop of mobile OLED devices is not enough for Apple's iPad - which is designed to be used for a longer period of time compared to a smartphone. An increased lifetime will also result in lower burn-in problems which seem to trouble Apple.
The Elec: BOE will not supply OLEDs to Apple smartphones in 2021, LGD and SDC to remain exclusive suppliers
Earlier this year it was reported that BOE failed to pass Apple's quality tests and did not become a supplier to the iPhone 12 series (BOE also failed to pass Samsung Electronics's display quality test).
According to a new report from Korea, Apple has tested BOE's AMOLEDs for next year's iPhones, but again BOE's OLED production quality is not good enough for Apple, which means that in 2021 Samsung Display and LG Display will remain the exclusive OLED suppliers to Apple's phones. In 2021 it is likely that Apple will introduce LTPO displays in addition to screens with a 120Hz refresh rates and on-cell touch.
DSCC says that the utilization rates at flexible OLED production lines have risen sharply in Q3 2020 - from around 40% to around 65% - mostly due to production for Apple's iPhones. A rise in Q3 utilization has also happened in past years, for the same reason.
It is also interesting to note that OLED TV utilization rates are decreasing - part of the reason is that LG's OLED fabs had limited capacity until now and operated at almost 100% rates, but as capacity increases LG is no longer capacity constrained.
According to rumors from Japan, Sony is set to supply Apple with OLED Microdisplays for Apple's future AR headset project. The rumors did not include more information than that...
Apple (like all other consumer electronics giants) is very active with AR R&D, as many believe that AR headsets will be very popular in the future and may replace smartphones. While I'm a bit skeptical about this technology, it is evident that many companies are increasing their R&D efforts in this field.
Apple announced its newest iPhone smartphones, and all of this year's models have OLED displays. All of Apple's new phones also include 5G connectivity and the company's latest A14 bionic 5nm chipset. Interestingly, all these OLED displays offer a refresh rate of 60Hz, it seems as if we'll have to wait for at least one more year to get 90Hz or 120Hz displays from Apple.
So first up we have the iPhone 12 Pro, which features a 6.1-inch 1170x2532 800-nits XDR AMOLED display. The larger iPhone 12 Pro Max has a 6.7-inch 1284x2778 AMOLED. Next we have the iPhone 12 - with its 6.1-inch 1170x2532 HDR10 XDR AMOLED display. Apple also introduced a smaller model, called the iPhone 12 mini which sports a 5.4-inch 1080x2340 HDR10 XDR AMOLED display.
DSCC says that the first half of 2020 has seen lower production at OLED fabs, due to normal season-related weakness in combination with the COVID-10 pandemic. Utilization rates and production capacity, however, rebounded in Q3 and will continue to be higher in Q4 of 2020.
The main reason for the bounce of flexible OLED production in Q3 was due to new products by Apple, Samsung and other device makers. In fact flexible OLED production in 2020 was higher in all months of 2020, including the weak quarters. However rigid OLEDs have seen a large drop in 2020 which has risen slightly in Q3 and will continue to rise - but remain smaller than 2019.