What are wearables?

Wearable computers, also called ‘wearables’, are technological devices that can be worn as clothing or accessories. Some wearables are based on relatively simple technology, similar to a scaled-down desktop computer, but some involve innovative technologies. Wearables include different products, such as fitness bands, wearable headsets, smart watches, healthcare monitoring and displays embedded in textiles.

The wearables market is diverse, but faces similar challenges like minimizing size and weight of components, deciding on optimal display location, choosing suitable services and applications to provide and balancing cost-to-price ratios.

What are OLEDs?

OLED is a light-emitting diode built from thin films of organic electroluminescent material sandwiched between electrodes. Since the materials are luminescent, they produce light when the current is run through them. No other display technology creates light directly like this: LCDs use color filters and light-blocking liquid crystals above a light-creating backlight. Plasmas use UV light created by igniting pockets of gas to excite phosphors.

This means that OLED screens are thinner, lighter, more efficient and offer better performance and color quality than other existing technologies. Each pixel can be shut off, providing absolute black and amazing contrast ratio. Earlier OLEDs used a glass substrate, but today's high end OLED displays use a plastic substrates which makes these displays flexible - as well as more durable as they are much less prone to shattering.

AMOLED vs. PMOLED

OLEDs divide into 2 groups: AMOLEDs and PMOLEDs, which refers to how the screen is addressed by the electronics of the device.



The "AM" in AMOLED stands for "active matrix", a way of running an OLED screen that's better for motion (like video). Each pixel can be addressed individually, which is what you want in, for example, a television. AMOLEDs can also be made much larger than PMOLED and have no restriction on resolution.

Passive matrix OLEDs, or PMOLEDs, use a simpler control scheme to control rows or columns rather than individual pixels. They are cheaper and easier to make, but also less efficient and suffer from lower lifetime, as well as size and resolution restrictions. They are typically used to display character data or small icons and are currently being used in MP3 players, mobile phone sub displays, etc. Here's more information about AMOLED vs. PMOLED technologies.

OLED wearables market

In 2017 the OLED market has made great inroads into the wearable market. Many fitness bands and simple smartwatch devices adopt PMOLED displays, which offer high efficiency, small size, great contrast and a low price tag. One such example is the Fitbit Charge which uses a small monochrome (white) PMOLED display.

More sophisticated smart watches tend to adopt AMOLED displays, which offer a much higher resolution and better performance. LG's G Watch R is a circular Android Wear smartwatch that uses a 1.3" 320x320 (246 PPI) plastic OLED panel while Apple's Watch uses a square flexible AMOLED (produced by LG Display).

Another wearable device type is a head mounted display (HMD) for VR applications. OLED is the best technology for AR and VR applications - as OLEDs combine a fast refresh rate, high image quality and power efficiency. In fact, most VR HMD makers adopted OLEDs for their HMD designs. If you want to learn more about OLEDs and the VR and AR market, check out our market report!

Latest Wearable OLED news

Louis Vuitton demonstrates a handbag with two flexible OLED screens

Fashion house Louis Vuitton demonstrated a bag with two flexible OLED displays (calling it a "Canvas Display") at the company's "Cruise 2020" show in New York earlier this week:

This is not the first Louis Vuitton OLED design - in 2017 it launched the Tambour Horizon, an Android Wear smartwatch that featured a 1.4" 390x390 round AMOLED . In 2019 the device was updated with a smaller 1.3" display.

Microdisplay Technologies for AR and HUDs

The following is a guest article, by Assaf Levy-Beeri, Co-founder at Joya Team

MicroDisplays are used in a variety of applications. First introduced into the market in the 90s, microdisplays were used as an image source for Rear Projection TVs (RPTVs), projectors, viewfinders for digital cameras and Helmet Mounted Display systems (HMDs).

Today, while the demand for wearable products is increasing and the potential wearable market size is very high, microdisplay market is expected to grow dramatically. Augmented Reality (AR) and smart glasses, Helmet Mounted Displays , Virtual Reality (VR) systems and Head-Up Display (HUD) systems are the main applications where a high-resolution microdisplay is required. Correspondingly, the technology is improving all the time and microdisplays manufacturers make significant investments in order to improve their technology and products performances. In addition, new technologies and manufacturers enter this field.

OLED Automotive Market Report

The foldable Nubia Alpha smartband is now shipping in China

In September 2019 Nubia unveiled the Alpha - smartband that turns into a smartphone - with a foldable OLED display. Nubia said it will launch its Alpha foldable smartband by the end of 2018, but later updated the launch date to April 2019.

Nubia has started to accept pre-orders for the Alpha which will start shipping tomorrow in China only for now - for 3499 Yuan (around $520). The first device to ship is the Bluetooth variant - and Nubia plans to release an eSim variant which will cost around $625 and will launch in Q3 2019.

IHS: smartwatch display shipped soared from 9.4 million units in 2014 to almost 150 million in 2018

IHS says that recent years have seen a drastic growth in smartwatch shipments - the market grew from 9.4 million units in 2014 to 149 million units in 2018. In just one year, shipments grew 42% from 2017 to 2018.

Smartwatch display shipments by technology (IHS, 2014-2018)

This rising demand for smartwatches has of course created a rising demand for displays. OLED displays are leading this segment - with around 80% of shipments in 2018 (the rest are mostly LCD displays). AMOLED display shipments were around 42 million and PMOLED shipments reached around 75 million.

LG to brand its CSO OLED as Display Speaker

Last month LG Electronics announced its G8 ThinQ with its 6.1" 1440x3120 Crystal Sound OLED. According to a new trademark filing, LG now aims to brand its CSO OLEDs as "Display Speaker".

LG G8 ThinQ photo (Seoul, March 2019)

A Crystal Sound OLED, or Display Speaker turns the flexible OLED display into high end speakers. This innovating OLED technology works for smartphones, TVs and also OLED lighting panels. In LG's trademark filing, it also hints that this technology will be used in future wearable displays.

Nubia demonstrates its Alpha foldable device, will ship in April 2019

In September 2019 Nubia unveiled a smartband that turns into a smartphone - with a foldable OLED display. Nubia said it will launch its Alpha foldable smartband by the end of 2018. This did not happen, but at MWC 2019 the company demonstrated the device again - and announced a new release date and prices.

The Nubia Alpha will start shipping in April 2019 in the US and Europe - but only the Bluetooth variant. The cost will be around $500. Nubia will also release an eSIM device - which will cost $624 and will launch in Q3 2019.

Samsung announces the Galaxy S10 (with 4 variants) and new OLED smartwatches

Samsung announced a handful of new devices, all with OLED displays. We'll start with the company's 2019 flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S10. It includes four different variants -

  • Galaxy S10 5G: 6.7" 3040x1440 flexible AMOLED
  • Galaxy S10+: 6.4" 3040x1440 flexible AMOLED
  • Galaxy S10: 6.1" 3040x1440 flexible AMOLED
  • Galaxy S10e: 5.8" 2280x1080 AMOLED (rigid?)

Samsung Galaxy S10 photo

The S10 phones use Samsung's latest AMOLEDs, that are now HDR10+ certified, include an under-the-OLED fingerprint sensor (Qualcomm ultra-sonic) and cut-outs for the selfie cameras. Samsung calls these displays "Dynamic AMOLED" (due to the HDR support, probably) and "Infinity-O Display" due to the camera cut-outs.

Fraunhofer FEP and EMDE to demonstrate textile embedded flexible OLED lighting

The Fraunhofer FEP institute has teamed up with OLED lighting developer EMDE development of light to demonstrate wearable OLED lighting based on flexible OLEDs integrated into textile designs. The OLED demonstration will be unveiled at LOPEC 2019.

Textile embedded flexible OLED prototype (Fraunhofer,  EMDE, PI-SCALE) photoThis project is part of the EU-funded PI-SCALE project, which recently demonstrated 15 meters long flexible OLED lighting panels. The Fraunhofer FEP says that they have taken a major step forward for the economical fabrication of OLED lighting devices based on the roll to roll process.

Cambridge Isotope Laboratories - Deutreated Reagents and High-Purity Gases for OLEDsCambridge Isotope Laboratories - Deutreated Reagents and High-Purity Gases for OLEDs