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.
Chinese OLED developer Royole announced its next-generation (3rd-Gen) fully flexible OLED displays, which it refers to as "Cicada Wing". Royole says that these new displays deliver significant improvements over its previous generation displays. The new displays have a material stack of over 100 layers.
Cicada Wing displays, compared to Royole's 2nd-Gen flexible OLEDs, offer 5X higher contrast, 50% higher brightness, 20% faster response time and a better color shift. It also offers a low brightness decay (Royole says it is 3.5X better then competing foldable OLEDs).
DSCC says that OLED area shipments will grow in 2020 to around 10.5 million square meters, up from 8 million square meters in 2019 - a growth of around 31%. In terms of revenues, the OLED market will grow 35% in 2020 to reach $37.6 billion. DSCC says that in 2020, 731 million OLEDs will be produced (up 27% from 2019).
Smartphone revenues will reach $30.7 billion in 2019 (up 35% from 2019) while TV revenues will grow 28% to $3.2 billion. Smartwatch revenues will increase 11% in 2020 to $2 billlion. The revenues for all other OLED applications are expected to increase by 69% in 2020 to $1.6 billion, mainly driven by laptop OLED displays.
DSCC says that OLED panel revenues in Q4 2019 reached $8.1 billion, down 2% from Q3 2019 and pretty much the same as in Q4 2018. In terms of units, DSCC says that in Q4 2019 124 million smartphone panels were shipped, 31 million wearable panels and 998,000 TV panels.
Smartphone revenues in Q4 2019 were down 2% from Q4 2018 (due to lower average sales price for both rigid and flexible panels, the number of panels actually increased 4%), and revenues for TVs were up 30% (to $752 million). Smartwatches remain the 3rd largest market for OLED panels, and experienced strong growth in 2019, but it seems as if the growth may have plateaued (in Q4 the revenues were down 7% from last year).
Apple's latest flagship iPhone displays all use OLED screens, and Apple is charging a hefty fee for a screen replacement - $280 if you do not have AppleCare. Another option is to buy the OLED screen from a vendor - at a lower cost, and perform the replacement yourself.
One such vendor is iFixit - and the screens still cost around $185 for the iPhone Xs and $155 for the iPhone X. iFixit is now offering a lower cost alternative - replace the OLED with an LCD display, which costs around $100 less than the fancier OLED option.
TCL has unveiled two interesting foldable OLED prototype devices. The first one is a tri-foldable OLED smartphone, that has a 10" 3K AMOLED display that folds into a 6.64" one. The second is the sliding-expanding prototype we already reported on last month.
These are still very early prototype devices, reportedly the software is not taking advantage of the special display features.
Samsung Display announced that it developed a new AMOLED smartphone display, optimized for 5G smartphones, that features a reduction of 15% in its power consumption compared to SDC's previous OLEDs. The new display also features the lowest blue-light emission in the industry - 6.5%.
Samsung did not explain how it managed to achieve the new reduction in power consumption - this is likely to be the result of new OLED materials. Samsung also does not explain how exactly these new OLEDs are optimized for 5G smartphones exactly - except for saying that these new displays are an excellent choice due to their high image quality, low power consumption and eye-protective functionality (low blue light).
Phone Radar now reports that only a week after getting the device, the plastic display is peeling off at the fold. iFixit tested the device, and scored it 1 out of 10 in terms of durability and fixability - and a simulated test suggested a failure at the hinge mechanism.
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:
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.