Article last updated on: Aug 10, 2019

Foldable OLED displays are exciting - as these displays will enable new device form factors - such as phones that open into tablets, smart bands that open into smartphones and more. In 2019 the first such products are finally arriving on the market!

Samsung Galaxy X prototype photo

The first foldable smartphones

In 2013, Samsung kicked off the foldable OLED market, sort of, when it announced its YOUM flexible OLED brand, showing off several flexible OLED prototypes - including a foldable phone/tablet. Samsung never used the YOUM brand name again, but Samsung has continued to develop its foldable OLED technology.

In 2015 we started hearing the first reports of Samsung's Project Valley. Samsung hoped to release its first foldable device in 2016, but the company faced many challenges including problems with the substrate and the software and user interface. In 2019 Samsung finally introduced the first device, the Galaxy Fold - which was launched prematurely, though, which compelled Samsung to halt production, fixed some design issues - and hopefully the company will finally launch the device again in September 2019.

Samsung Galaxy Fold photo

Samsung's first foldable device uses two screens - a large 7.3" 1532x2152 (361 PPI) foldable AMOLED that folds inside, and a smaller 4.5" 840x1960 AMOLED that is used when the phone is closed. Samsung brands the display as the Samsung Infinity Flex Display. The Galaxy Fold is relatively thick and bulky - and is expensive (around $2,000).



Other companies are also developing such devices - Royole is already shipping a "developer" edition of the FlexPai phone/tablet, with its 7.8" 1920x1440 (308 PPI) AMOLED display that fold outwards.

In February 2019 Huawei launched its first foldable smartphone, the Mate X with a 8" 2200x2480 foldable AMOLED display that folds outwards. Huawei said it will launch the Mate X by the end of June, but now the company says it is now planning to release it in September.Huawei Mate X folding photo

In September 2019 Nubia unveiled the Alpha - smartband that turns into a smartphone - with a foldable OLED display. Nubia started shipping this device in China in early 2019. Xiaomi has also teased a beautiful tri-folded OLED smartphone.

In May 2019 Lenovo demonstrated a prototype 13.3" foldable OLED ThinkPad laptop - with LGD providing the display. Lenovo said that it developed this device for over three years, and hopes to launched a commercial one in 2020.

Foldable OLED developers

Samsung Display is not the only display maker to develop foldable OLED technologies. China's BOE Display seems to be another leading foldable OLED developer. In May 2018, BOE demonstrated several impressive new technologies, including a 6.2" 1440x3008 foldable (1R) OLED display with a touch layer and a foldable 7.56" 2048x1535 OLED. According to reports, BOE is working with three companies, including Huawei, with four different devices under development. BOE is likely to be the display supplier for Huawei's Mate X.

In September 2018, Chinese smartphone maker Nubia unveiled its first foldable device, the Nubia Alpha. The Alpha uses a tall and slim foldable OLED and turns from a slim phone to a wearable smartwatch. The device is now shipping in China. The producer of the Nubia Alpha's display is China-based Visionox. Visionox is also supplying the OLEDs to Xiaomi's prototypes.

Nubia alpha photo

The foldable OLED market

It seems that 2019 will be the year of the foldable OLED. Market analyst firm DSCC estimates that by 2022 the market for foldable OLED will reach 63 million units, up from 3 million in 2019 (a CAGR of 173%).

Foldable OLED shipment forecasts (2019-2022, DSCC)

Flexible OLEDs Market Report

If you want to fully understand the flexible and foldable OLED display and lighting markets, check out our Flexible OLED Market Report. This comprehensive report explains:

  • Why flexible displays and lighting panels are so exciting
  • What kind of flexible displays are currently on the market
  • What the future holds for flexible OLEDs
  • Foldable OLED plans and forecasts
  • How to acquire flexible OLEDs for your products

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The latest foldable OLED news:

Samsung launches several new AMOLED devices, including the Note 20 and the Galaxy Z Fold 2

Samsung announced several new OLED devices yesterday. We'll start with the new Galaxy Note 20 which sports a 6.7-inch 1080x2400 HDR10+ Super AMOLED Plus display (which could mean this is an RGB display, not a Pentile one). The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has a larger 6.9-inch 1440x3088 Dynamic AMOLED. The display supports a refresh rate of 120Hz at Full-HD resolution and 60Hz at QHD. According to the Elec in Korea, the Note 20 Ultra display has an LTPO backplane (which Samsung calls HOP).

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra photo

Next up is the company's 2nd generation Galaxy Z Fold 2 that is an update to the original fold with a larger internal foldable display at 7.6" 1768x2208 HDR10+ 120Hz Dynamic AMOLED and also a larger 6.23" 816x2260 Super AMOLED cover display. The Fold 2 also improves the hinge design and sports an ultra-thin-glass cover (like the Galaxy Z Flip).

UBI: OLED makers are developing color filters as replacement for polarizers in foldable OLEDs

UBI Research reports that OLED makers are aiming to adopt color filters instead of polarizers in foldable OLED displays. The polarizer help prevent internal reflections by external light, but they lower the brightness and limit the flexibility of the panel.

BOE / UBI: color-filter for foldable OLED scheme

Using color filters instead of the polarizer may enable brighter panels and also thinner ones which are more flexible. BOE has already demonstrated such a panel back in 2017 (scheme shown above) - and they said it is 23% brighter than a polarizer OLED, and it is also 110 um thinner. Samsung Display is also developing similar technology.

DSCC details the production cost and prices of flexible and foldable OLED displays

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.

Flexible OLED production cost and price, Korea, Q2-2020 (DSCC)

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.

UBI sees fast growth in Polyimide films and ultra-thin glass for foldable smartphone displays

UBI Research estimates that foldable smartphone display makers will continue to rely on both Ultra-Thin-Glass (UTG) and Colorless Polyimide (CPI) films for at least the next five years.

Foldable UTG and CPI market forecast (2020-2024, UBI)

UBI sees demand for CPI films will reach 4.3 million units in 2020 while demand for UTG will reach 3.5 million units. Demand for both products will grow and by 2024 it will reach 37.1 million units for CPI and 30.5 million for UTG.

OLED-Info's foldable, flexible, VR/AR, transparent, microdisplays, PMOLED, automotive and graphene OLED market reports updated to July 2020

Today we published new versions of our market reports - that cover the flexible, VR/AR, microdisplays, automotive, PMOLED and graphene OLED markets. OLED-Info provides comprehensive niche OLED market reports, and our reports cover everything you need to know about the niche market, and can be useful if you want to understand how the OLED industry works and what this technology can provide for your own industry. The reports are now updated to July 2020.

The Flexible and Foldable OLED Market Report:

  • Why flexible displays and lighting panels are so exciting
  • What kind of flexible displays are currently on the market
  • All about the foldable OLED market and industry
  • What the future holds for flexible OLEDs
  • How to acquire flexible OLEDs for your products

The report package provides a good introduction to the flexible and foldable OLED market - present and future. It details both flexible displays and lighting technologies. Read more here!

Omdia sees 73 million foldable AMOLEDs displays shipped in 2025

Omdia says that the global foldable OLED display market will grow from 700,000 units to 3.9 million in 2020 (a 5X increase) - and will continue its fast growth to reach 73.1 million in 2025.

TCL foldable OLED device prototype, MWC 2019

Omdia says that the main challenge of the foldable OLED market is the reliability of the displays - mainly the cover, the touch sensor and the polarizer films. Display makers will need to adopt new technologies such as ultrathin glass covers (UTG), touch sensors on TFE and color filters on TFE

DSCC sees 5 million foldable OLEDs produced in 2020, over 77 million in 2025

DSCC says that the future will bring significant growth for foldable OLED displays - fueled by lower panel prices as production increases and yields improve, lower device prices and improved display reliability as devices improve.

Foldable OLED panel shipments forecast (2018-2025, DSCC)

DSCC sees meaningful improvements in devices starting in the second half of 2020. In 2020 around 5 million foldable devices (mostly smartphones) will ship, generating almost $1 billion in revenues. From 2020 to 2025, foldable display shipments will rise to 77 million units (a CAGR of 132%) and revenues will reach almost $8 billion (CAGR of 113%).

Huawei says it lost $60 million on its Mate Xs foldable smartphone in two months

Huawei launches its Mate Xs foldable smartphone in February 2020, with a 8" 2200x2480 foldable AMOLED display (produced by BOE). Huawei's consumer business CEO, Yu Chengdong, says taht even though the Mate Xs costs $2,400 the company lost around $60-70 million on this smartphone since its launch.

Huawei Mate X photo

The Mate Xs is an updated Mate X, with the same display and form factor, but with upgraded specifications.

OLED-Info's foldable, flexible, VR/AR, transparent, microdisplays and automotive OLED market reports updated to April 2020

Today we published new versions of our market reports - that cover the flexible, VR/AR, microdisplays, automotive, PMOLED and graphene OLED markets. OLED-Info provides comprehensive niche OLED market reports, and our reports cover everything you need to know about the niche market, and can be useful if you want to understand how the OLED industry works and what this technology can provide for your own industry. The reports are now updated to April 2020.

The Flexible and Foldable OLED Market Report:

  • Why flexible displays and lighting panels are so exciting
  • What kind of flexible displays are currently on the market
  • All about the foldable OLED market and industry
  • What the future holds for flexible OLEDs
  • How to acquire flexible OLEDs for your products

The report package provides a good introduction to the flexible and foldable OLED market - present and future. It details both flexible displays and lighting technologies. Read more here!

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