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

IHS: LGD is the world's leading AMOLED producer for wearables, followed by SDC, EDO, AUO and BOE

IHS says that LG Display is the world's leading AMOLED supplier for smartwatches and wearables. In 2017 LGD shipped 10.64 million AMOLED displays for smartwatches - and it holds a market share of 41.4% (the total market was 25.7 million units in 2017). LG is the exclusive supplier of AMOLED displays for Apple's watch.

Apple Watch Series 2 photo

Samsung Displays is the 2nd wearable AMOLED Producer, with a 34.8% market share. Everdisplay has a 16.2% share and AU Optronics shipped 5.7% of all wearable AMOLED shipments in 2017. BOE is the fifth largest AMOLED wearable maker with a market share of 1.5%.

AUO demonstrated its latest OLED and Micro-LED technologies at SID-2018

Taiwan-based AU Optronics (AUO) demonstrated the company's latest OLED, LCD and Micro-LED technologies at SID 2018.

The company had a relatively small OLED demonstration area, showing its True-Circle in-cell Touch AMOLED displays (1.2" and 1.4") unveiled in May 2017. These displays are already shipping. AUO also unveiled its large 13" transparent AR AMOLED (68% transmittance). This transparent OLED was shown for the first time. The 13" panel features a resolution of 1150x575 (100 PPI) and a brightness of 200 nits.

The OLED Marketplace, find your OLED here

Visionox demonstrates its latest PMOLED and AMOLED displays at SID 2018

China-based OLED producer Visionox had a very impressive booth at SID 2018, demonstrating the company's latest AMOLED and PMOLED displays and prototypes.

Visionox is now producing AMOLED displays for smartphones and wearables and the company showcased a wide range of AMOLED panels and also commercial phones that use these panels. Visionox also demonstrated many new display prototypes.

Fraunhofer, Holst and VTT developed a new flexible OLED lighting bracelet produced at the EU PI-SCALE line

The Fraunhofer FEP, together with VTT and the Holst Center developed a new wearable OLED lighting bracelet, one of the first one of the first flexible organic electronic product to be produced at the European PI-SCALE pilot production line.

Wearable OLED bracelet (Fraunhofer / FTT / Holst)

The yellow and red OLED deposition in this prototype was performed at the Fraunhofer FPP (which can handle both sheet-to-sheet and roll-to-roll processes), while the barrier web was produced at the Holst Centre. VTT integrated the OLEDs into the bracelet. Such a bracelet, with its low power consumption, could be used as a security device, as a fashion jewelry, and more.

Skyworth demonstrates a flexible OLED bracelet at CES 2018

Last week we posted about Skyworth's CES booth, where the company reportedly demonstrated new household appliances that utilize flexible AMOLED displays. It turns out that Skyworth also unveiled a smart bracelet that utilizes a flexible OLED

Skyworth flexible OLED bracelet-prototype (CES 2018)

This seems to be a very early prototype device, as the engineering is crude and it appears just to show an image - but still it is nice to see companies testing flexible OLED based designs.

Facebook launches the affordable Oculus Go VR headset with a fast-switch LCD

Oculus (Facebook) announced its new affordable VR headset, the Oculus Go. This $199 device will launch early next year for $199 and Facebook hopes that this will be a step towards its goal to get one billion people to use its VR products.

Oculus Go launch event (LCD slide)

One of the ways that Oculus used to lower the cost of to Go headset is to switch from an OLED to an LCD. Oculus says that this is a "fast-switch LCD". It's too early to say how this display will compare to the current OLED used in the Oculus Rift. Looking at the slide above, it seems that the Go uses a single 2560x1440 LCD.