What is an OLED display?
OLED is short for Organic Light Emitting Diode, a device composed of thin carbon-based films placed between two electrodes that creates light with the application of electricity. Unlike other screen technologies, (like LCDs), which require backlighting, OLED displays are emissive devices - they emit light rather than manipulate transmitted external light.
OLEDs provide brighter, crisper colors and contrast on electronic devices and use less power than conventional light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or liquid crystal displays (LCDs) used today. This revolutionary technology is fit for various types of screens, like computer screens, mobile phones, tablets, TVs and more. OLED screens are light, thin, high-resolution and contain individually-lit pixels that make for true blacks and superior color contrast. Since they also consume much less power than LCDs and can be made flexible, it seems OLEDs are the choice of the future.
OLEDs do, however, have several downsides. For starters, they are currently relatively expensive due to high manufacturing costs - and the larger display, the larger the premium over LCDs. OLED are also quite sensitive to oxygen/water damage and may suffer from burn-in (an image that is displayed for a long time might leave a permanent mark on the screen). It’s important to say that with the extensive work being put into OLED technology, it is indeed improving very rapidly and these weaknesses will probably be dealt with in the future.
The current OLED tablet market
OLED displays are already very common on mobile phones (in fact about a quarter of all mobile phones now ship with an OLED - and that percentage is climbing as Apple, Samsung, Huawei Lenovo and others adopt OLED displays in their best smartphones).
OLEDs are just now starting to make inroads into the tablet market, though - as these larger displays carry a high premium over competing LCDs. The leading company that produces and adopts OLEDs is Samsung, and indeed the company's latest high-end tablets all use OLED displays.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3, for example, introduced in February 2017 is a Android (v7) tablet that is optimized for gaming and entertainment. It features a 9.7" QXGA (2048x1536) Super AMOLED display, a quad-core Snapdragon 820 CPU, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, microSD slot and quad-stereo speakers. The Tab S3 is now shipping for $699 (Wi-Fi edition).
Another example is Lenovo's X1 Yoga 2017 edition - which is a hybrid tablet / laptop that has a 14" 2560 x 1440 display - either an LCD or an OLED. The OLED model (256GB SSD, 8GB of RAM and an intel Core i7 CPU) costs $2349.
Latest OLED Tablet news
Samsung's Galaxy Tab S3 is now shipping in the US for $699 (Wi-Fi edition). This gaming and entertainment optimized Android V7 tablet features a 9.7" QXGA (2048x1536) Super AMOLED display, a quad-core Snapdragon 820 CPU, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, microSD slot and quad-stereo speakers.
According to report from Korea, Samsung Electronics has decided to start adopting OLED displays in all of its tablet devices and to increasingly use OLEDs in laptops. The Galaxy Tab S3 is the company's latest OLED tablet.
According to a report in Korea, Samsung Electronics has decided to start adopting OLED displays in all of its tablet devices and to increasingly use OLEDs in laptops.
Samsung Display is currently producing OLEDs for tablets and laptops in a limited quantity, as most of its OLED capacity is dedicated to mobile phone displays. According to ETNews SDC will continue to gradually convert its LCD lines to OLED and the ultimate goal of SDC is to only produce OLED displays for mobile devices.
Lenovo recently demonstrated two new foldable device prototypes that use flexible OLED displays. First up is the CPlus, a smartphone that turns into a smartwatch or actually a smart "band" that is worn on the wrist.
The CPlus sports a 4.26" display, and is based on Android. Lenovo aims to make two version of this device, when it reaches the market - a small one and a large one.
Samsung is working on foldable displays for many years, as the company is looking to release a foldable phone that will be able to merge the phone and tablet markets (or possible a small phone that opens to a smartphone sized display). The company has recently accelerated its efforts, and such a phone may be released in 2017.
Foldable OLED concept (2013)
The main technology development drive is centered on the foldable OLED display itself - which is being developed for many years. According to a new report by ETNews, Samsung has decided to "test the waters" with a foldable phone that uses two different displays. This dual-screen phone will be easier to produce than a phone with a foldable OLED display. Of course the two displays, even if these are very thin-bezel ones, will still not merge to a real single display when the phone is open.
Apple's move to adopt OLED displays in its future iPhone devices has been reported so many times, that analysts assume that this is highly likely to happen in 2017 or 2018. It seems that now they are starting to look further down the road, and respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo from KGI expects Apple to adopt flexible AMOLED Panels in its 2018 iPads.
Back in 2015 it was reported that Apple wants to use OLEDs in future iPads - and that the company contracted JOLED to produce those OLEDs. That 2015 report was probably groundless, but it seems plausible that if Apple moves to flexible OLEDs, it will eventually want to adopt these displays across its entire mobile product line. Whether there's anything behind this latest estimation from KGI, I do not know.
The X1 Yoga has a 14" 2550x1440 display (LCD or OLED) and the configuration goes up to Core i7 CPUs, 16GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage. The laptop weighs 1.27 Kg.
Samsung has been developing foldable OLEDs for a long time, and several reports in the past few months suggested that Samsung is working on a foldable phone, to be released in 2017.
According to Bloomberg, Samsung actually aims to release two kinds of foldable phones - as early as in February 2017. The first one will be a regular-sized phone that folds into a small device (clamshell style?) while the second will be a 5" phone that will open to become an 8" tablet.
IHS say that the lower prices of AMOLEDs and the improvements in production is attracting more device makers to adopt AMOLED panels in their products. This leads to rapid increase in AMOLED shipments.
IHS sees 395 million AMOLEDs shipped in 2016 (this seems a bit optimistic) - an increase of 40% compared to 2015. Revenues will increase by 25% to reach $15 billion. AMOLED penetration in smartphone displays will rise from 17% in 2015 to 21% in 2016. IHS says that "AMOLED is becoming the shiniest spot in the flat-panel display industry".