Will Samsung's 2018 foldable phone fold inwards or outwards?

Samsung has been developing foldable display technologies for many years, and it seems that a foldable phone/tablet is always just around the corner. Samsung is getting closer to a commercial release, though, and earlier this month Samsung's Mobile Business group President says that it hopes to have a foldable phone in the market in 2018.

In-folding vs Out-folding smartphone designs

One of the interesting questions is what kind of device will Samsung launch? In 2016 we heard that Samsung is developing two basic device types - a phone that turns into a tablet and a phone that turns into a smartwatch. The focus currently seems to be on a phone/tablet device. But will it be out-foldable or in-foldable?

ITRI demonstrates an almost-commercial-ready foldable AMOLED prototype

Taiwan's ITRI institute demonstrated a new foldable AMOLED display prototype, saying that its technology is rapidly approaching "commercial standards". ITRI's new AMOLED panels offer excellent display quality, touch functionality.

ITRI says that its new AMOLED panels are also abrasion-resistant and folding resistant. In fact the panel can be folded up to 200,000 times with a folding radius of 3 mm. It can also withstand being subjected to 1kg of steel wool friction over 50,000 times.

Royole raises $800 million to finance its upcoming flexible OLED production line

Flexible OLED developer Royole has raised $800 million in its fourth financing round, from Bank of China, ICBC, Citiy Bank and others. Part of that round ($560 million) was in debt while the rest was in equity.

Flexible AMOLED prototype (Royole, 2017)

Royole's previous financing round was in November 2016 - when it raised $75.5 million at a valuation of $3 billion. It's likely that the current financing round is at an even larger valuation.

Hisense A2 Pro

The Hisense A2 Pro is a dual-display smartphone that features a 5.5-inch FHD AMOLED on the front and a 5.2-inch 960x540 E Ink display on the back. Other features include an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chipset, 4GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, microSD slot, 12 MP camera and Dual-SIM.

Hisense A2 Pro photo

The Hisense A2 Pro will launch soon in China, pricing information is not available yet.

CPT aims to start mass producing QD-LED displays within 2 years

Taiwan-based Chunghwa Picture Tubes (CPT) says that it is developing Quantum-Dots displays (QD-LEDs) produced using a printing process. CPT says that QD-LEDs offer pure-colors, long lifetime and are more efficient and stable compared to OLED displays.

Q-LED presentation slide (CPT, September 2017)

CPT hopes that a printing process will enable low cost QD-LED displays. CPT's Material Technology Division manager estimates that the major obstacles have already been overcome - although the performance of quantum dots is still lacking and CPT is continuing to research and develop QD materials. CPT estimates that it could start mass producing QD-LED displays within two years.

Gionee M7

Gionee's M7 is an Android smartphone that features a 6.01" 2160x1080 AMOLED display, an Mediatek Helio P30 chipset, 6GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, 16MP dual-lens camera and Dual-SIM.

Gionee M7 photo

The M7 will ship by the end of September 2017 for around $425

Idemitsu Kosan and Toray to co-develop OLED materials

Japan-based OLED material maker Idemitsu Kosan announced a new partnership with Toray Industries to co-develop OLED materials.

Toray and Idemitsu will mutually utilize the OLED materials, technology and expertise that both companies possess, and will cooperate in the development of new materials and material evaluation. The two companies will also jointly use their evaluation facilities and production facilities. Both companies hope that this collaboration will accelerate OLED material development and enable lower cost production.

Reports from Korea suggest Apple decided not to release a 5.3-inch OLED iPhone in 2018

Apple introduced its first OLED iPhone, the iPhone X with a 5.8" 1125x2436 (458 PPI) flexible Super AMOLED display, and analysts were expecting that Apple will extend the adoption of OLEDs to both its smaller and larger iPhones next year.

Apple iPhone X photo

Reports from Korea, however, now suggest that Apple decided that in 2018 its smaller iPhone (at 5.28-inch) will use an LCD, and not an OLED. Apple will use an OLED in two models in 2018 - one at 5.8-inch and one at 6.46-inch.

IHS: sales of flexible OLED displays more than double in Q2 2017

IHS estimates that sales of mobile flexible AMOLED displays reached about $2 billion in Q2 2017 - more than double compared to Q2 2016 ($886 million).

Samsung quad-edge flexible AMOLED (SID 2017)

Samsung still commands this market - IHS says that SDC had a market share of 98.3% in the second quarter. The second flexible OLED market is LG Display which is reportedly still struggling with yield and quality issues at its new E5 flexible OLED line and so has a low capacity. LGD will hopefully soon increase its capacity dramatically. Chinese OLED makers are now initiating flexible OLED production as well.

BOE to ship its first flexible AMOLED at the end of October 2017

Back in May it was reported that BOE started producing flexible OLEDs at the company's new 6-Gen (the B7) fab in Chengdu. This was apparently a bit optimistic, but a new report from Japan now says that BOE aims to ship its first flexible OLED out of the Chengdu fab at the end of next month (October 2017).

BOE 6-Gen Chengdu flexible AMOLED fab photo

BOE's new fab has a capacity of 45,000 monthly substrates - enough to make around 90 million smartphone sized AMOLEDs annually. It is likely though that initial yields will be low and production quite limited.