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. Plasma displays 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.
Kopin Corporation announced that it has shipped its first commercial order of its 0.49-inch 720p (1280x720) OLED microdisplays. The customer is a US company that will use the displays in public safety applications.
Kopin's 0.49-inch OLED microdisplays use the company's ColorMax technology for superb color fidelity and a duo-stack OLED structure for high current efficiency (over 10 candela per ampere).
DSCC says that OLED panel revenues will reach almost $12 billion in Q4 2020 - reaching an all-time high (up 46% from Q4 2019) as all the major OLED markets, smartphones, TVs and smartwatches, saw increased demand.
One of the major drivers for the increased Q4 demand was Apple's later-than-usual release date which pushed orders into Q4 from Q3, and an earlier Samsung S21 release which meant SDC started producing panels for Samsung Electronics's upcoming flagship as early as November. DSCC estimates that Apple will account for 57% of all OLED smartphone panel revenues in the quarter.
Yesterday Oppo hosted its Oppo INNO Day 2020, during which it unveiled two interesting concept devices. First up is the Oppo X, a rollable OLED smartphone that can open up to increase the display size:
When closed the Oppo X has a 6.7-inch AMOLED, and when rolled open it can reach 7.4 inches. Inside the phone the display scrolls around a 6.8mm 'scroll motor'. Oppo says it applied 122 patents for this specific phone, with 12 patents protecting the scroll mechanism. This is still just a concept, and Oppo did not disclose any commercialization plans.
According to rumors from Japan, Sony is set to supply Apple with OLED Microdisplays for Apple's future AR headset project. The rumors did not include more information than that...
Apple (like all other consumer electronics giants) is very active with AR R&D, as many believe that AR headsets will be very popular in the future and may replace smartphones. While I'm a bit skeptical about this technology, it is evident that many companies are increasing their R&D efforts in this field.
UBI Research estimates that OLED shipments in the first half of 2020 were 231 million units ($13.2 billion), pretty much the same as in the first half of 2019 (230 million, $13.8 billion). UBI estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic decreased demand for OLED displays.
Looking at market segmentation, OLED shipments for smartphones decreased from 200.4 million units to 189.8 million units. Foldable phones increased from 70,000 units to 1.7 million units, and smartwatch display shipments increased sharply from 22 million units in the first half of 2019 to 33.5 million in the first half of 2020.
Next up is the company's 2nd generation Galaxy Z Fold 2 that is an update to the original fold with a larger internal foldable display at 7.6" 1768x2208 HDR10+ 120Hz Dynamic AMOLED and also a larger 6.23" 816x2260 Super AMOLED cover display. The Fold 2 also improves the hinge design and sports an ultra-thin-glass cover (like the Galaxy Z Flip).
TADF emitter developer Kyulux announced that it has shipped the first batch of its yellow TADF emitter to Taiwan's Wisechip to be used it the world's first TADF / Hyperfluorescence display, the 2.7" PMOLED announced in October 2019 - which means that the display will likely start to ship soon.
Wisechip's first HF PMOLED is a 2.7" 128x64 monochrome yellow display, that reaches a brightness of 220 nits - 2.5 times brighter than Wisechip's fluorescent yellow PMOLED. The lifetime of this display is 50,000 hours. Wisechip says this display is aimed for the medical, industrial and electronic products markets, and in the future it will launch TADF/HF PMOLEDs for the wearable and consumer electronics markets as well.