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:

Huawei launches four new AMOLED smartphones and wearables

Huawei launched several new devices yesterday, including four new AMOLED ones. The top of the line is the Mate 20 X, a large smartphone that features several high-end technologies - a 7.2" 1080x2244 (346 PPI) AMOLED display, a triple Leica cameras setup, a GoodixTech under-the-display fingerprint sensor, a 5000 mAh battery and a graphene thermal management film.

Huawei Mate 20 X photo
Huawei also launched the smaller Mate 20 Pro - another high-end smartphone that features a 6.39" 1440x3120 (538 PPI) AMOLED display (reportedly produced by BOE), an Octa-Core Kirin 980 (7 nm) chipet, 6GB of RAM, 128 GB of storage, an NM card slot and a triple Leica optics camera setup. The Mate 20 Pro is the first smartphone to adopt Synaptics' complete display system solution - which includes Synaptics’ flexible chip-on-film (COF) ClearView display driver and the company's ClearPad touch controllers.

Ming-Chi Kuo: Apple to continue and use an LCD in its entry-level 2019 iPhone

In 2017 Apple introduced its first OLED iPhone (the iPhone X), and in 2018 its smartphone range include 2 OLED phones (the iPhone XS and XS Max) and one LCD phone. Earlier estimates suggested that in 2019, Apple's will move exclusively to OLED in all of its smartphones. But a new report suggests otherwise.

Apple iPhone XS Max photo

Known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says that in 2019 Apple will continue to use an LCD display in its entry-level smartphone. The 2019 range will include two OLED iPhones (5.8" and 6.5") and the LCD model will use a 6.1" display - a similar lineup to the one they have in 2018.

OLED Automotive Market Report

Who will win the foldable smartphone race?

In 2013, Samsung 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 the foldable smartphone concept presented in 2013 (see image below) is still exciting consumers - and many of them are still waiting for Samsung to commercialize the technology.

Fast forward to 2015, and the first reports of Samsung's Project Valley started to surface. Samsung started to actually develop a foldable phone, with plans to release its first device in 2016. Samsung faced many challenges - and delays - in its foldable smartphone project (which was recently renamed to Project Winner) - including problems with the substrate and the software and user interface.

Sharp launches its first flexible OLED phone, the Aquos Zero

Sharp started to produce flexible OLED displays in June 2018 and the company now launched its first phone to sport its own panels - the Aquos Zero smartphone - that has a notch-type 6.2" 1440x2992 display. Sharp will start shipping this phone in Japan by the end of 2018.

Sharp Aquos Zero photoSharp's OLED displays are being produced at Sharp's 4.5-Gen Taki plant which has been converted (partially) to OLED production. Sharp aims to convert a total of 30,000 out of 90,000 monthly LCD substrates to 22,000 OLED substrates, but this will take time and the company's current capacity is probably quite limited.

DisplayMate: The iPhone XS Max has the world's best mobile display, and it is produced by SDC

DisplayMate has posted a comprehensive review of the Apple iPhone XS Max display - a 6.5" 1242x2688 AMOLED display. DisplayMate has found that this display is highly impressive - with a close to text-book perfect calibration and performance. The display has been found to be on par with the Galaxy S9 and Note 9 display.

Apple iPhone XS Max photo

The high performance display led us to ask DisplayMate's Raymond Soneira about the producer of this display - and he confirms our estimation - the iPhone XS Max's display was produced by Samsung Display. In the past months we have heard many reports claiming that Apple contracted LG Display to produce this 6.5" AMOLED, and now we have proof that eventually Apple chose to keep Samsung as its exclusive supplier for Smartphone AMOLEDs, at least for now.

Newzoo: over a billion OLED smartphones are on the market

Market research company Newzoo has started to track the OLED smartphone market, and the company's analysts say that over a billion smartphones with OLED displays have been shipped - up from 720 million in July 2016. OLED is the display of choice for high-end smartphones, and OLED displays take up 30.4% of the total smartphone display market (up from 26.2% in June 2016).OLED smartphone market share (June 2016 - July 2018, Newzoo)

Looking at smartphone brands, NewZoo says that Samsung accounts for 70.5% of the market (smartphones with OLED displays, that is) - down from 87% in July 2016. Samsung is followed by Oppo (9%), Vivo (9% as well) and Apple (around 5%).

DSCC: flexible OLEDS carry a 5X premium over LTPS LCDs

Display Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC) estimates that a 6" flexible OLED Module (with a touch layer) costs around $78 (and will drop slightly to $76 by the end of the year). Meanwhile the price of a similar rigid OLED is around $26 and an LTPS LCD is around $16.

Smartphone OLED Vs. LCD pricing (2017-2018, DSCC)

LCD producers have lowered the prices dramatically in the last two years (from $29 in early 2017 to $16 today), and rigid OLED producers have been forced the lower their prices as well (from $42 in early 2017 to $26 today).

DSCC lowers its OLED revenue forecast for 2019-2022, sees the market at $50 billion in 2022

Display Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC) updated its AMOLED market forecast, and the company now expects revenues to grow from $26 billion in 2018 to $50 billion in 2022.

OLED market revenue & growth (2016-2022, DSCC)

DSCC sees fast growth for the OLED market, driven by flexible and foldable displays - and the flexible OLED market will grow at a 32% CAGR from 2018 to 2022. Only a few months ago, though, DSCC estimated that revenues in 2022 will reach $57.2 billion by 2022.

Sony's flagship pOLED Xperia XZ3 smartphone now available for pre-order

Sony's latest flagship phone, the Xperia XZ3, will ship in September 24 in the US for $900 - and you can pre-order it now at Amazon.com. This is the single-SIM edition. In the UK, the XZ3 will ship in October 2018 for £699.

Sony Xperia XZ3 photo

The Xperia XZ3 is a high-end smartphone that features a curved 6" QHD+ 1440x2880 (537 PPI) LG pOLED display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset, 4 GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, microSD slot, Dual-SIM (optional) and a 19Mp 4K HDR camera.

Kyulux - Hyperfluoresence OLED emittersKyulux - Hyperfluoresence OLED emitters