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

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!

The latest foldable OLED news:

UBI: the COVID pandemic decreased demand for OLED smartphone displays, while demand for wearable displays have risen sharply

UBI Research estimates that OLED shipments in the first half of 2020 were 231 million units ($13.2 billion), pretty much the same as in the first half of 2019 (230 million, $13.8 billion). UBI estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic decreased demand for OLED displays.

OLED shipments and revenues (1H19 to 1H20, UBI)

Looking at market segmentation, OLED shipments for smartphones decreased from 200.4 million units to 189.8 million units. Foldable phones increased from 70,000 units to 1.7 million units, and smartwatch display shipments increased sharply from 22 million units in the first half of 2019 to 33.5 million in the first half of 2020.

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

Today we published new versions of our market reports - that cover the flexible, VR/AR, microdisplays, automotive 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 October 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!

Online review shows that the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is more durable than the original Fold, but not by much

When Samsung launched its original foldable smartphone, it used a polyimide-based cover, and the screen was fragile and not very durable. Later in 2020 Samsung Display launched its ultra-thin-glass (UTG) cover (produced by Schott and processed by Dowoo Insys) which the company said is more durable the the Polyimide.

Samsung Electronics continued to adopt the new foldable UTG cover and used it in its Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold2 5G (7.6" 1768x2208 HDR10+ 120Hz Dynamic AMOLED) smartphone. But the question remains - just how more durable is the UTG-protected OLED?

Lenovo starts accepting pre-orders for the foldable ThinkPad Fold

In early 2020 Lenovo announced the foldable ThinkPad Fold laptop, and the company is now starting to accept pre-orders for this innovative device which starts at $2,499. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold photo

The ThinkPad X1 Fold features a 13.3" 2048x1536 foldable OLED display that is produced by LG Display. LG's collaboration with Lenovo was announced in May 2019 - but interestingly in November 2019 BOE also said that it is collaborating with Lenovo and that it supplied Lenovo with the 13.3" foldable OLED it used in the prototype ThinkPad X1 foldable laptop it demonstrated in May 2019.

DSCC: the foldable/rollable smartphone market will grow to $105 billion by 2025

DSCC says that the foldable/rollable smartphone market will be one of the fastest growing consumer electronics market - and sales of such smartphones will grow to $105 billion by 2025, in a CAGR of 80%.

Foldable and rollable smartphone sales and growth (2019-2025, DSCC)

The display area used in such devices will grow a 93% CAGR, to reach 1.2 million square meters by 2025. In terms of units, 74.4 million rollable/foldable smartphones will ship in 2025.

Samsung Display announces a 1.4R foldable OLED display

Samsung Display announced that it has commercial a new foldable OLED display that is the first to achieve a curvature radius of 1.4R mm. This display will be adopted in Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold2 5G (7.6" 1768x2208 HDR10+ 120Hz Dynamic AMOLED) with an Ultra-Thin Glass (UTG) cover glass.

Samsung 1.4R foldable OLED display photo
Samsung says that in order to minimize the folding stress that is increased in such a small folding radius, the company has optimized a series of technologies related to the material of the display, the panel design and the module assembly, so that the multi-layered structure will function like a cushion when the panel is folded.

Samsung Electronics collaborates with Corning on Ultra Thin Glass technology for foldable OLEDs

Samsung started to adopt ultra-thin glass covers for its foldable AMOLEDs, instead of polyimide, as it says UTG offers higher durability. In the Galaxy Z Flip, Samsung used a UTG cover produced by Korea-based Dowoo Insys, who processes Schott's ultra thin glass for Samsung Display.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip photo

In April 2020 it was reported that Samsung Electronics wants to develop its own UTG cover technology, as as it feels that Samsung Display's UTG is still not robust enough and the company also wants to increase production yields and reduce costs. Now there are new reports from Korea that say that Samsung Electronics is collaborating with Corning in this new UTG project.

Why are rollable displays more challenging to produce than foldable displays?

Foldable OLED display have been introduced in 2019, and today we have several premium smartphones that feature such interesting new displays. Most analysts agree that the foldable OLED market will grow at a very fast rate in the future.

Rollable OLED displays, however, are yet to enter the market. Display makers have been showing rollable display prototypes for many years, but commercial products aren't here yet. LG Display will hopefully start shipping the rollable 65RX OLED TV soon, and the company also says it will ship a rollable OLED smartphone in 2021.

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).