An OLED display uses a new technology called OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diodes). OLED screens are brighter, more efficient, thinner and feature better refresh rates and contrast than LCD or Plasma.
OLEDs are made by placing thin films of organic (carbon based) materials between two conductors. When an electrical current is applied, a bright light is emitted. Since the OLED materials emit light, a backlight is not required (unlike LCDs).
OLEDs in mobile phones
Mobile phones that boast OLED screens are rapidly becoming more prevalent, with over 500 million AMOLED screens produced in 2018 - mostly to satisfy demand from mobile phones. Samsung has been using AMOLEDs in its high-end phones for many years, and most phone makers are also starting to adopt OLED displays (including Apple, LG, Xiaomi, Huawei, Oppo, Vivo, Lenovo, Motorola, and others.
In July 2020 LG Electronics announced that it aims to be the first company to introduce a rollable OLED smartphone - as early as the beginning of 2021. The company has now released a new teaser, showing the upcoming smartphone in action:
Unlike other rollable smartphone designs, LG's phone opens up on the wide size of the phone, to become an tablet form factor. LG did not give any information, specification or release date on what could be the world's first rollable phone.
TCL first shows a rollable smartphone, that uses a 7.8-inch AMOLED that rolls into a 6.7-inch one. The display features a bending radius of 3 mm and CSoT says it can withstand up to 100,000 sliding cycles.
A report from Korea suggests that Samsung will be the exclusive supplier for Apple' LTPO AMOLED displays used in the next iPhone devices. Apple will adopt LTPO, according to the report, in the two higher-end modules in 2021. These models will also support a 120Hz refresh rate.
It was already reported that Apple aims to adopt LTPO in future iPhone displays. It was assumed that LG Display will also be able to produce such displays, but apparently that will only happen in 2022. Samsung already produces such smartphone displays, adopted in the Note 20 Ultra (Samsung brands this technology as Adaptive Frequency or hybrid oxide and polycrystalline silicon, or HOP).
Market research company Omdia says that at the end of 2020, 62.8% of all smartphones use OLED panels, while 31.8%, use LCDs (I'm not sure about the rest of the smartphones, maybe some use E Ink displays but not all the rest of the missing 5.4% in Omdia's summary.
Omdia further estimates that SDC's smartphone OLED panel sales will exceed $5 billion in Q1 2021, a 30% increase over Q1 2020.
According to the report BOE will start supplying AMOLED displays to Apple before the end of 2020. In 2021, BOE will ship 10 million AMOLED displays to Apple. LGD will supply 40 million panels while Samsung will supply 130 million panels.
A couple of months ago ZTE announced the first smartphone with an under-the-OLED camera - the The Axon 20 5G. The phone is now shipping, and the first review is in, by The Verge.
The conclusion is rather dismal. The area in the screen under which the selfie camera resides is noticable - in fact the reviewer say that the "under-display integration is extremely noticeable on light backgrounds". You can see a square patch of the screen that exhibits a clear dithering effect. In fact the reviewer says that he'd prefer a notch-type display over what he gets in the Axon 20 5G.
DSCC estimates that foldable OLED panel shipments will reach 3.1 million units in 2020, an increase of 454% from 2019. Revenues in 2020 will reach $462 million. DSCC decreased its estimates following the US restrictions on Huawei which prevented the launch of the Mate X2. The market will grow to 94 million panels by 2025 (a CAGR of 97% from 2018).
Samsung is clearly the leading foldable OLED device brand, with a market share of over 80% in the 2020. The two best selling smartphones in 2020 are the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip and the Z Fold 2.
DSCC says that OLED panel revenues will reach almost $12 billion in Q4 2020 - reaching an all-time high (up 46% from Q4 2019) as all the major OLED markets, smartphones, TVs and smartwatches, saw increased demand.
One of the major drivers for the increased Q4 demand was Apple's later-than-usual release date which pushed orders into Q4 from Q3, and an earlier Samsung S21 release which meant SDC started producing panels for Samsung Electronics's upcoming flagship as early as November. DSCC estimates that Apple will account for 57% of all OLED smartphone panel revenues in the quarter.
UBI Research says that the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with US sanctions against Huawei are lowering demand for OLED smartphone panels. UBI estimates that in Q3 2020 113 million OLED smartphone panels were shipped, 17.9% lower than in Q3 2019.
Even though Apple is expanding its OLED adoption, this is not enough to offset the decreased demand from the COVID-19 and Huawei sanctions, and UBI estimates that Q4 2019 will also be lower by around 18% from last year.