Article last updated on: Oct 17, 2018

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.

Samsung's foldable OLEDs

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 early 2018, Samsung Display seemed to have overcome most of its challenges, and the company started showing an almost-ready first prototype in private meetings. Several Samsung officials have committed to an 2018 launch, and according to our information Samsung Display is set to begin foldable OLED production in November 2018.

In-folding vs Out-folding smartphone designs

Samsung's foldable OLED capacity will be limited at first (ETNews estimates it at 100,000 panels in 2018 and a million panels in 2019) and its foldable device is likely to be a high premium device. There are conflicting reports regarding the design itself - but the most likely device is one with two OLEDs - the internal one that is around 6.5 to 7.3 inches in size when open and around 3.5-inches in size when folded, and an external OLED that will be around 3.5 inches in size and used when the device is closed. There are rumors that the device will be called Galaxy F (Galaxy Foldable).



Other foldable OLED developers

Samsung Display is not the only display maker to develop foldable OLED technologies, though. 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.

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. Nubia claims that the device will ship in China by the end of 2018. The producer of the Nubia Alpha's display is China-based Visionox, who may yet become the world's first foldable OLED producer if Nubia does indeed release its device by the end of 2018.

Nubia alpha photo

Besides Samsung, Visionox and BOE, other display makers have demonstrated foldable OLEDs, but it seems that none are as mature as Samsung and BOE. LG Display has been reportedly collaborating with Apple, Google and Microsoft on this project (this hasn't been confirmed) but its plans are to release its first panel only in 2020. Tianma also demonstrated foldable OLEDs in 2018, and so did Everdisplay and Royole- but it does not seem as if these companies are ready to begin production in the near future.

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

The report package also provides a complete list of flexible OLED developers and makers and their current (and future) products, and a lot more. Read more here!

Latest Foldable OLED news

DSCC: the OLED market will grow 19% in 2019 to reach $31 billion in revenues

DSCC estimates that the AMOLED market will grow 19% in 2019 to reach $31 billion, up from $26.5 billion in 2018. OLED revenues will continue to grow and reach $48.8 billion in 2022 (a CAGR of 16%).

OLED panel revenue by type, (2016-2022, DSCC)

Look at OLED unit shipments and area production, 2019 will see a 22% growth in unit shipments to 610 million panels and a 35% growth in area to 9 million square meters. Area shipments will grow faster than revenues as OLED selling prices will continue to decline - and as OLED TVs take up a larger share of the OLED market.

OLED Automotive Market Report

IHS sees 50 million foldable OLEDs shipped in 2025

IHS says that the foldable OLED market will grow from 200,000 units in 2018 to over 50 million units by 2025, taking up 6% of the total OLED market (825 million panels) and 11% of the total flexible OLED market (476 million).

Foldable AMOLED shipments forecast (2018-2025, IHS)

IHS sees fast growth ahead for the market, but the analysts say that smartphone brands are cautious about launching foldable smartphones because the phones should be durable enough for repeated folding and thin and light enough even when supporting a larger display and battery.

Samsung unveiled its upcoming foldable smartphone, with a 7.3" fold-in AMOLED

As expected, Samsung unveiled its upcoming foldable smartphone yesterday. The rumors were correct, and Samsung's first foldable device will have two screens - a large 7.3" foldable AMOLED that folds inside, and a smaller OLED that is used when the phone is closed. Samsung brands the display as the Samsung Infinity Flex Display.

Samsung Galaxy X prototype photo

The inner foldable display is a 7.3" AMOLED with a resolution of 1532x2152. The outer display is a 4.5" 840x1960 AMOLED. The whole device seems to be quite thick and about double the depth compared to a standard smartphone.

Will Samsung reveal its first foldable device today?

Samsung's annual US developer conference is starting today, and rumors suggest that the company will unveil its first foldable device (the Galaxy F?) during the event. Samsung Mobile's Facebook page profile image was changed today to the one you see below - which surely suggests something foldable:

Samsung Mobile Galaxy F teaser profile image

Hopefully we'll know more soon. For a few months now we hear that Samsung foldable device launch will take place in November, and according to the latest estimates the device will sport a 7.3" OLED display that folds inside. The device will also sport an external, smaller AMOLED.

LG to bring a rollable OLED TV and a foldable OLED phone to CES 2019

LG Electronics demonstrated its 65" rollable OLED TV prototype in 2018, showing how such a display can be used to create a TV that rolls into its base.

LGD 65'' rollable OLED TV, CES 2018

Engadget says that LG has plans to showcase a rollable TV again in CES 2019 (January 9-11). Engadget says that according to its information the rollable TV will take "center stage" in next year's event - which may point to the fact that LG is close to commercializing such a TV. In 2017 LGD did say it plans to bring rollable OLED TVs to market by 2020.

Royole launches a foldable smartphone/tablet developer device

US and China based Royole launched the world's first foldable OLED device - the FlexPai phone/tablet. The FlexPai has a 7.8" 1920x1440 (308 PPI) AMOLED display, when unfolded, The display folds outwards, and when folded the device has three different displays (front, back and spine).

Royole FlexPai developer device photo

Royole is now accepting pre-orders for the "Developer Mode" device, starting at $1318 for the 128GB model. The first devices will ship in late December 2018. The company said the device has passed bending, twisting and tension tests over 200,000 times, and the display is much more durable compared to current displays (as it is not covered by glass).

Samsung is developing laptops with foldable displays

Lee Min-Cheol, Samsung Electronic's PC Marketing VP says that Samsung is collaborating with "display makers" (Samsung Display? or an error in the quote?) to develop OLED laptops with foldable displays. Samsung says that it aims to bring "new value and user experience" and not just create a laptop and can simply fold in and out.

Samsung will hopefully release its first foldable smartphone device by the end of 2018 or in early 2019, but apparently the company is already thinking about other form factors. Earlier this month a report from Korea suggested that LG Display is collaborating with Lenovo to develop a 13" foldable tablet, with aims to start panel production in H2 2019.

China's first flexible semiconductor industry base project release, has the exclusive technology

The following is a sponsored post by Shaanxi Kuntech Semiconductor Technology

The press conference for the landing and launching of Shaanxi Kuntech Flexible Semiconductor Service Manufacturing Base Project was grandly held in West Fengxi New City, West Xian Xin New District, Shaanxi province on the morning of October 16, with its theme being "Shinning Shaanxi and Shaping the Future World".

Kuntech flexible AMOLED prototype photo

A number of Chinese government leaders, partners from home and abroad, as well as the media attended the event, where the duo direction foldable AMOLED display with internal and external folds developed by the R&D team was also displayed.

ETNews: LGD and Lenovo are developing a foldable 13" tablet, will ship by the end of 2019

According to a report from ETNews, LG Display is collaborating with Lenovo to develop a foldable tablet. The tablet will use a 13" foldable OLED - which LGD aims to start producing in the second half of 2019.

The 13" display will be around 9" when folded. So this device will stay in the tablet size category when folded, this will not compete in the smartphone market. This is the first time we hear of such a device under development - which could make sense as a tablet is not used as much as a smartphone is - and so the number of supported folding cycles can be lower.

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