Article last updated on: Jul 25, 2018

What is an OLED display?

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 400 million AMOLED screens produced in 2017 - 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.

Apple iPhone X photo

OLED displays are advancing quickly, and today smartphone AMOLED displays outperform LCDs in all parameters - the flexible 5.8" 1125x2436 OLED (made by SDC) used by Apple's iPhone X is considered the best mobile display ever produced.



Samsung started to adopt flexible OLED in some of its high-end phones. These displays can be curved and Samsung adopted a design in which the OLED is curved around the edges. This proved to be a very popular design and starting in the Note 7, Samsung exclusively uses curved edge flexible OLEDs. The latest flexible AMOLED used in the Galaxy S9 is a 5.8" 1440x2960 (570 PPI) Super AMOLED display. Many other smartphone brands are also using flexible OLEDs in their flagship devices.

Further reading

The latest smartphone OLED news:

DisplayMate: Samsung yet again improved their AMOLED displays, the Note 9 has the best mobile display ever

DisplayMate posted a review of Samsung's latest OLED display - the 6.4" 1440x2960 (516 PPI) flexible Super AMOLED used in the Galaxy Note 9. As we've seen many times before, Samsung managed to significantly improve its OLED quality - and DisplayMate says that this is the best mobile display ever tested.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 photo

In the Galaxy Note 9, Samsung concentrated on significantly raising the on-screen absolute picture quality and absolute color accuracy by implementing precision factory display calibration. This could have been a response to the excellent calibration done by Apple in the iPhone X.

UBI: 430 million smartphone AMOLEDs will ship in 2018, 900 million in 2022

UBI Research estimates that demand for OLED smartphone displays is now on a gradual increase, and by the end of the year it will return to the levels of the end of 2017, fueled by new Apple OLED phones and SDC's intention to decrease its rigid OLED prices to better compete with LCD displays.

AMOLED shipments by application (2018-2022, UBI Research)

Looking further ahead, UBI sees the OLED smartphone market growing from 430 million unit in 2018 to 900 million units in 2022. Foldable OLED shipments will grow from 1 million units in 2019 to 18 million units in 2022 - that's much lower than UBI's forecasts published only two months ago - when it estimated 28 million foldable OLED panel shipments in 2022.

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The Nikkei Asian Review: SDC shipped only 6 million OLED panels to Apple in Q2 2018

The Nikkei Asian Review says that Samsung's OLED shipments to Apple for its iPhone X dropped to only 6 million panels in Q2 2018 (April-June). In Q1 2018, it was estimated that SDC produced almost 20 million panels for Apple. NAR says that SDC expected to ship around 12-15 million panels to Apple's iPhone X in the quarter, so this is a major disappointment for Samsung.

According to this report, the sale's of Apple's iPhone X has been much lower than expected in the past quarter. Apple, however, will reportedly release two new OLED smartphones in 2018 - and in June 2018 DSSC said that SDC's flexible OLED fabs utilization rates have been recovering, as SDC started to produce panels for Apple's 2018 phones, and Samsung's own flagship phones.

Sharp starts producing AMOLED displays, will ship its first OLED smartphone in Q4 2018

In January 2018 Sharp's CEO announced that Sharp aims to begin commercial production of flexible OLED displays for its own smartphones in Q1 2018. A later report from Taiwan suggested that Sharp is converting a third of its 4.5-Gen Taki plant capacity from LCD to OLED. 30,000 out of 90,000 monthly LCD substrates will be converted to 22,000 OLED substrates.

A new report from Japan, citing Sharp's EVP Katsuaki Nomura, claims that OLED mass production at Sharp began in June 2018, and the company wil ship its first OLED Aquos smartphone in Q4 2018.

Samsung sees stronger demand for flexible OLEDs in H2 2018, but more risks to its rigid OLED sales

Samsung Electronics reported its results for Q2 2018 - revenues reached $52 billion and operating profit grew to $13.3 billion - the lowest growth since Q1 2017 as the company's smartphone sales is under pressure from Chinese phone makers. SDC reports an improved utilization rates at its rigid OLED fabs, but there was a slow demand for flexible OLEDs.

Looking into the second half of the year, Samsung expects increased shipments of flexible OLEDs, while rigid OLEDs will face stronger competition from LCDs. Samsung reitrates its plans to start producing foldable OLEDs by the end of 2018.

Samsung's unbreakable OLED display certified by the US Department of Labor

Samsung Display announced that its unbreakable smartphone panel has been certified Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the official testing company for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor. This display was first demonstrated at SID 2018.

This display is not aimed for just smartphones - SDC sees it being used in the automotive market, the defense market, portable game consoles and tablet PCs. The display is a flexible AMOLED on an "unbreakable" substrate with an overlay plastic window securely adhered to it.

DSCC sees a recovery in OLED area production in H2 2018

DSCC says that while it is too early indeed to talk about an OLED recovery from an equipment supplier point of view, the smartphone OLED market is set for substantial growth in the second half of 2018.

Smartphone AMOLED area shipments (2017-2018, DSCC)

Samsung is seeing improved OLED fab utilization, and the company still has some unused capacity at its A4 fab. As the gap between rigid OLED and LCD has fallen to around $5, OLED adoption is rising. In addition, smartphone makers are increasingly using flexible OLEDs in high end devices.

ETNews: SDC will make 100,000 foldable OLEDs in 2018, 1 million in 2019

Samsung Display is expected to begin foldable OLED production towards the end of 2018, as Samsung Electronics plans to begin selling foldable phones in the beginning of 2019. A new report from Korea's ETNews gives some new information on Samsung's plans.

According to ETNews, Samsung will soon be ready to start producing foldable OLEDs in a new pilot line in its A3 flexible OLED line. In 2018 the company will only be able to produce 100,000 units, and in 2019 the capacity will be about 1 million. It seems that Samsung is in a hurry to have a product out, and is currently ready to start production with low yields and high production costs (according to GBI estimates, the first foldable phone/tablet will cost over $1,800).

Bloomberg: LGD to supply Apple with 2-4 million OLED displays for its 2018 iPhones

In January 2018 it was reported that LG Display is in the final stages of its discussions with Apple, and the Korean OLED maker expects to supply 15-16 million flexible OLEDs to Apple in 2018 (LGD will supply Apple with 6.5" AMOLEDs for its 2018 large iPhone OLED variant).

It was later reported by the Wall Street Journal, however, that LG Display may not be ready to produce these OLED displays in time for Apple. Today Bloomberg reports that LGD will supply OLEDs to Apple this year, but only 2-4 million panels (out of about 70 million panels) - with the rest supplied by Samsung Display of course. Bloomberg did not detail whether LGD will supply Apple with the 6.5" OLEDs or the 5.8" ones.

The Bell: Apple aims to sell 45 million 6.5" OLED iPhones and 25 million 5.84" OLED iPhones in 2018

More and more reports suggest that Apple's 2018 iPhone lineup (to be introduced in September 2018) will include two OLED models and one LCD models. A few days ago it the Nikkei Asian Review said that Apple's 2018 OLED iPhone launch orders will be 20% lower compared to 2017, amounting to 80 million panels.

Apple iPhone X photo

Now the Korean site The Bell says that Apple ordered 45 million 6.5" OLED panels from SDC for the iPhone Xs Plus and only 25 million for the smaller 5.84" iPhone Xs - to a total of 70 million panels. For the lower-end LCD model, Apple ordered only 30 million panels from Japan Display.

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