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

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  • Why flexible displays and lighting panels are so exciting
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The latest foldable OLED news:

Is TCL developing an expanding-sliding OLED smartphone?

CNet reports that TCL was supposed to demonstrate a novel smartphone design next week (at the cancelled MWC event) that uses an "expandable" sliding OLED display. The idea is basically the same as in the first crop of foldable OLEDs - provide a phone that can open up to a tablet-size device:

 TCL concept sliding OLED smartphone - open image

Apparently TCL was supposed to show a working demonstration. Such a design will likely require a screen that is folded in two places or some sort of rollable display - which is possible but more difficult to actually commercialize compared to a screen that folds inwardly or outwardly in a single position.

Samsung launches its second foldable OLED phone, the Galaxy Z Flip

Yesterday Samsung announced the Galaxy Z Flip, its 2nd foldable smartphone, features a 6.7" 1080x2636 inward foldable HDR "Dynamic AMOLED" display. The external display is a small 1.1" 112x300 Super AMOLED. The Galaxy Z Flip will ship on February 14th, starting at $1,380 in the US.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip photo

Besides the new form factor, the Z Flip uses an ultra-thin glass cover - unlike the Galaxy Fold which used a plastic one. At least according to The Verge, this makes for a big improvement - it feels better, can't easily be "marked-up" by a fingernail and there's no visible crease. The Z Flip also feels much more refined - with no creaking and with a solid-feeling hinge.

Motorola starts shipping the foldable Razr 2019, initial reviews are here

Yesterday Motorola started shipping its $1,500 foldable OLED phone, the Razr 2019. The Razr 2019 features a 6.2" 2142x876 (21:9) foldable AMOLED display that folds inside, produced by BOE. There's also a regular external 2.7" 600x800 AMOLED used when the phone is closed.

Motorola Razr 2019 photo

Initial reviews are appearing online. Android Central's Nirave Gondhia tested one such phone, and he says that the Razr's screen feels fragile, even more so than the screen of his Galaxy Fold. While he likes how the device folds, he says that as the screen shifts along the hinge, the feedback on the screen feel strange and it feels as if the screen could be damaged by the folding over the long term.

Will Samsung's next foldable phone use ultra-thin flexible glass?

Samsung is working on its next foldable phone, which according to leaks will be called the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip. According to XDA's Max Weinbach, the new phone will be use ultra-thin flexible glass, instead of polyimide.

Samsung Galaxy Fold 2 - leaked photo December 2019

In November 2019 Samsung indeed signed an exclusive deal with Korea's Dowoo Insys to supply ultra-thin glass (UTG) for future foldable OLED devices. Samsung is aiming to switch to glass as its current foldable OLEDs which are protected by a plastic cover are highly prone for scratching and are very fragile.

Lenovo unveils a 13.3" foldable OLED laptop, to ship mid-2020

Lenovo unveiled the world's first foldable laptop - the ThinkPad X1 Fold. This is a Windows 10 Pro laptop that uses a 13.3" 2048x1536 foldable OLED display. The X1 Fold features an Intel chipset (unspecified yet) and a wireless keyboard. The battery life should be about 11 hours.

Lenovo says the ThinkPad X1 Fold will ship in mid-2020 starting at $2,499. Lenovo reveals that LG Display is the producer of the foldable display.

Intel shows a foldable concept device with a 17.3-inch OLED display

Intel unveiled a new concept device called the Horseshow Bend, which uses a 17.3" foldable OLED display that folds into a 12" display. The device is based on Intel's upcoming "Tiger Lake" mobile processors.

Intel says that the Horseshoe Bend can be used in a number of postures for varying user experiences: laptop, all-in-one, lay-flat, canvas or book. It has also been developed with a detachable keyboard that fit seamlessly into the device when folded for easy transport.

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

Is this Samsung's second foldable smartphone?

New images were leaked on Chinese media, showing a new foldable phone design - that is reportedly made by Samsung. This could be the company's upcoming second foldable phone (the Galaxy Fold 2 perhaps?).

Samsung Galaxy Fold 2 - leaked photo December 2019

The design looks somewhat similar to the clamshell Motorola Razr 2019 - but in Samsung's design (if this is indeed a Samsung phone) there is only a very small external display for notifications - which looks to be a white PMOLED.

Motorola delays the foldable Razr 2019 launch due to high demand

Motorola says that due to unexpected high demand, it is delaying the launch of its $1,500 foldable OLED phone, the Razr 2019. The company did not announce a new launch date (previously it was December 26th) but says that the company "does not anticipate a significant shift from our original availability timeline".

Motorola Razr 2019 photo

Motorola says that "Since its announcement in November, the new motorola razr has received unparalleled excitement and interest from consumers. Demand has been high, and as a result, has quickly outgrown supply predictions".

CNet reviews the Huawei Mate X foldable phone - and likes it alot

Last month Huawei finally launched its first foldable smartphone, the Mate X with a 8" 2200x2480 foldable AMOLED display (produced by BOE) that folds outwards. One of the first reviews was posted by CNet's Andrew Hoyle - who spent one day with this $2,400 device - and liked it a lot.

Huawei Mate X folding photo

The OLED itself seems to be a great display - Andrew says that it is a bright, vibrant and sharp display. When open, the 8" display is great for videos and images. Andrew also loves the folding mechanism works like a charm, and says that the device is a joy to use. Compared to the Galaxy Fold, he says that the Mate X is much thinner when closed which is important - and it is also much more usable when closed as it has a much larger display.