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:
DSCC sees a $63 billion OLED market in 2026, driven by high demand for laptop, monitor and tablet displays
DSCC has released its latest OLED market forecast, and the company forecasts a 8% CAGR revenue growth, with the market reaching $64 billion in revenue in 2026. The growth will be fueled by high demand for laptop, monitor and tablet displays. The smartphone and OLED TV market will also continue to grow.
DSCC sees a 31% CAGR shipment growth for laptop displays, to reach around $2.4 billion in 2026, and a 95% CAGR unit growth for monitor OLED displays, which will reach $1.3 billion in 2026 (up from $200 million in 2022). This is fast growth for monitor OLED displays, but slower than DSCC previously estimated, due to competition for miniLEDs, rigid OLED capacity that will be used for laptops and tablets and lower demand to mirroring display monitors.
Towards the end of 2021 we reported that Apple plans to launch its first AR headset in Q4 2022, powered by dual 4K OLED microdisplays, produced by Sony
According to Ross Young from DSSC, Apple first headset will actually be a VR headset, that uses a foveated display system. The headset will feature three displays - two 4K microLEDs (indeed produced by Sony) and one larger AMOLED display.
Apple analyst Ming-chi Kuo says that Apple plans to launch its first AR headset in Q4 2022, powered by dual 4K OLED microdisplays, produced by Sony. The headset will feature Mac-level computer power and will not require a tethered smartphone to operate.
Apple has been working on AR technologies for many years. Last year it was indeed reported in Japan that Apple is working with Sony on its microdisplays. Earlier this year it was reported that Apple has teamed up with TSMC for microdisplay production - but it could be that TSMC will be the manufacturing partner, while Sony will provide the OLED technology and knowhow.
DSCC posted an interesting article, comparing the production costs of OLED vs mini-LED panels for IT. DSCC estimates that for tablets and notebooks, a tandem structure will be used, and the panels will be based on rigid substrates.
In the chart above you see a production cost comparison, between 2021 and 2025, for 12.9" panels. DSCC looks at two OLED production options: a tandem OLED panel with an LTPO backplane produced in a 6-Gen fab, and a similar panel that uses an Oxide-TFT backplane and produced in a larger 8.5-Gen fab. As you can see, OLED panels are more cost effective, and will remain so throughout the forecast period.
According to a report from China, BOE will produce around 15 million AMOLED panels for Apple in 2021, or about 10% of Apple's total OLED panel orders.
BOE is supplying displays for refurbished iPhone 12 devices, and Apple is now looking into adopting BOE's panels in the iPhone 13. It is likely that the 15 million shipments estimate relies on Apple's approval of BOE's iPhone 13 panels, and even so it might be a bit optimistic that BOE will supply so many panels by year's end.
UBI Research estimates that Samsung Display shipped 124.76 million smartphone AMOLED panels in Q3 2021, an increase of 24.6% from the previous quarter, enjoying high demand from Apple for its iPhone 13 series.
SDC produced and shipped 62.63 million rigid panels (or about 50% of its total shipments), for low-end and mid-tier smartphones. Flexible OLED shipments were 58.2 million units (out of which 39.31 million went to Apple), and foldable OLEDs shipments reached 3.93 million units.
A few days ago we posted that Apple has reportedly decided to delay its iPad OLED launch to 2023, and the company canceled its current joint development project with Samsung Display, as SDC could not develop what Apple wanted - a tandem stack structure, which would have improved the lifetime and performance of the AMOLED display.
According to a new report from Korea, LG Display is also developing a tablet display for Apple - a 12.9" AMOLED panel. LG's iPad display will be ready for mass production by 2023-2024, and it will use a tandem (2 stacks) architecture on an LTPO backplane. As SDC's project is canceled, it is likely that LG's 12.9" will be the first OLED adopted by Apple's tablets.
Reports from Korea suggest that Apple has decided to delay its iPad OLED launch to 2023, and the company canceled its current joint development project with Samsung Display.
SDC aimed to develop a 10.86 AMOLED display for Apple's iPad. According to earlier reports, Apple wanted SDC to developed a tandem stack structure to improve the OLED device lifetime and brightness - and also to reduce burn-in problems. Apparently SDC is not ready to start tandem OLED production next year, and Apple will not accept a single-stack OLED for tablet applications.
Our friends at DisplayMate posted an in-depth technical review of the iPhone 13 Pro Max display. The 6.7-inch 1284x2778 10Hz-120Hz 1200 nits LTPO AMOLED receives DisplayMate's highest display performance grade of A+.
DisplayMate says that the new display outperforms the display adopted by Apple in last year's iPhone 12 Pro Max. The iPhone 13 Pro display's new adaptive 120Hz refresh rate which results in a 25% boost to power efficiency. The new display is also brighter by 27% and enjoys a higher absolute color accuracy. The size of the notch was also reduced by 20%.
According to reports from Korea, Apple has given BOE a "conditional approval" for iPhone panel supply. BOE hasn't been able to meet 100% of Apple's requirements, but it is now given time to fix these issues, and may be able to become a supplier to Apple if all goes well.
Even if BOE manage to satisfy Apple, it will take some time and so it is likely that it won't receive large orders for the iPhone 13 series. Apple currently buys all of its iPhone AMOLED panels from Samsung Display and LG Display. BOE aims to supply the panels for the standard iPhone 13 (not the Pro series).