Article last updated on: Feb 20, 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 we will finally see the first foldable smartphones 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 the company is finally set to introduce its first device, the Samsung Galaxy F (F for foldable)

Samsung Galaxy X folding design image

Samsung's first foldable device will have 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 F is relatively thick and bulky - and will carry a very high cost and be produced in limited volume.



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. Xiaomi has teased a beautiful tri-folded OLED smartphone and Huawei will unveil its first foldable smartphone in MWC 2019.

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.

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. Visionox is also supplying the OLEDs to Xiaomi's prototypes.

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!

The latest foldable OLED news:

Sharp demonstrates a 6.18" foldable AMOLED prototype

Sharp demonstrated a new 6.18" 1440x3040 foldable AMOLED prototype. The company says that it can withstand over 300,000 bending cycles. The demonstration panel folds inwardly, but Sharp apparently says it can also bend outwardly.

In June 2018 Sharp started to produce flexible OLED displays in low volume and in October 2018 the company launched its first phone to sport its own panels - the Aquos Zero smartphone - that has a notch-type 6.2" 1440x2992 display.

Samsung Display starts to produce foldable OLED displays

Samsung Display announced today that it has started to mass produce foldable OLED displays, shipping the first such displays to Samsung Electronics.

Samsung Galaxy Fold photo

SDC's first foldable OLEDs are the inside-folding 7.3" 1536x2152 Infinity Flex AMOLED displays that will be used in the Samsung Galaxy Fold - which will start shipping later this month (for $2,000) in Korea and Europe.

The foldable Nubia Alpha smartband is now shipping in China

In September 2019 Nubia unveiled the Alpha - smartband that turns into a smartphone - with a foldable OLED display. Nubia said it will launch its Alpha foldable smartband by the end of 2018, but later updated the launch date to April 2019.

Nubia has started to accept pre-orders for the Alpha which will start shipping tomorrow in China only for now - for 3499 Yuan (around $520). The first device to ship is the Bluetooth variant - and Nubia plans to release an eSim variant which will cost around $625 and will launch in Q3 2019.

OLED-Info's foldable, flexible, VR/AR, microdisplays, PMOLED, automotive and graphene OLED market reports updated to April 2019

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 2019.

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!

AUO develops foldable OLED displays in collaboration with Lenovo

As Samsung, BOE and Visionox are already starting to produce foldable OLEDs (for Samsung Electronics, Huawei and Xiaomi and Nubia, respectively), AUO is not be left behind, and the Taiwan-based display maker announced it is working with clients to develop foldable OLEDs, with aims to start production in the second half of 2019.

AUO is developing an in-folding display (similar to Samsung's Galaxy Fold). According to CLSA, AUO is developing its foldable OLEDs in collaboration with Lenovo. AUO aims to produce these OLEDs in its 4.5-Gen AMOLED AFPD fab in Singapore - which commenced low-volume AMOLED production in 2013. AUO is currently producing mostly wearable glass-based OLEDs in its AFPD fab.

A report says Xiaomi's foldable smartphone will cost $999 and launch by June 2019

In January 2019 Xiaomi unveiled a video of its new prototype smartphone that uses a tri-foldable OLED display. According to a new report from China, Xiaomi plans to ship the device sometimes between April and June - with a price tag of $999.99.

If this is true, that's half the price of Samsung's Galaxy Fold (which will cost $1,980 in the US) and less than half of Huawei's Mate X (which will reportedly cost $2,600).

Samsung is developing two more foldable devices

Last month Samsung unveiled its first foldable OLED device, the Galaxy Fold - with its inside-folding 7.3" 1536 x 2152 Infinity Flex AMOLED display. The GFold is not shipping yet - but according to Bloomberg, Samsung is already developing two more foldable devices.

Samsung Galaxy Fold photo

One of the two devices will look like a clamshell phone (an inside-folding OLED, but with a different form factor) - and the second will fold outside, in a similar fashion to Huawei's Mate X. The clamshell phone will be unveiled towards the end of 2019, or early in 2019. The out-folding device seems to be closer to commercialization and Samsung has already produced prototypes as it considered using this design in the first generation Galaxy Fold.

DSCC sees 1.65 million foldable OLED panels shipped in 2019, will grow to 80 million by 2023

DSCC released its latest forecast for the foldable OLED market. According to DSCC 1.65 million foldable OLED panels will ship in 2019 - which will grow to 60 million panels in 2022 and just over 80 million panels in 2023.

Foldable OLED shipments forecast (2019-2023, DSCC)

DSCC says that foldable devices should "inevitably succeed" as device makers see these devices as a way to boost high-end smartphone revenues as this market has plateaued. DSCC says that the forecast may be even cautious - although if we compare to DSCC's previous foldable OLED estimates released at the end of 2018, they have lowered their predictions slightly.

Things we learned at the first day of OLED Korea 2019

The first day of the OLED Korea 2019 conference is almost over - with some interesting lectures and talks by leading OLED companies and professionals. Here are some of the things under discussion today (highlights only):

LGD's future plans for OLED TVs at OLED Korea 2019 photo

  • Some believe there will be a real market for >$2,000 foldable OLED devices, and some call for cost reductions before real adoption could take place
  • LG Display is optimistic regarding the future of OLED TVs
  • Samsung will not commit yet to its QD-OLED technology
  • Both Cynora and Kyulux are rapidly progressing towards a long lasting TADF/HF blue - but it seems there's still work to be done
  • Idemitsu Kosan is increasing its fluorescent OLED emitter efficiency
  • Universal Display's RGBB architecture is back on the table - and the company now highlights the architecture's low blue light emission. UDC seems more optimistic then ever regarding blue PHOLED commercialization
  • Equipment maker's focus is shifting to China as Korean OLED makers will not increase capacity in the near future

Cambridge Isotope Laboratories - Deutreated Reagents and High-Purity Gases for OLEDsCambridge Isotope Laboratories - Deutreated Reagents and High-Purity Gases for OLEDs