OLED is an emerging display technology that is fast becoming the mainstream display technology in many markets, as OLED enables display panels that offer the best image quality and free design as they can be made flexible and transparent. The Samsung OLED displays are considered to be the best in the industry and the Korean company is the clear lead in AMOLED production for mobile devices.

SDC 5.7'' FHD rollable OLED at SID 2016

Over the pay years Samsung invested billions of dollars in OLED research and production facilities as the company sees OLEDs fast replacing LCD displays in all mobile applications.

Samsung AMOLED displays

Samsung is currently producing over 300 million AMOLED displays in a year, used mostly in smartphones - such as Samsung's own Galaxy S7 (and S7 edge ) - but also in smartphones from Gionee, Meizu, Acer, HP, Vivo, Microsoft, Lenovo, ZTE, Hisense, Konka and others. Samsung also produces large mobile OLEDs for tablets, laptops and monitors.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge photoSamsung Galaxy S6 Edge

In August 2013 Samsung launched the company's first OLED TV, the KN55S9C, which used a curved 55" OLED panel. The TV was priced at around $8999 in the US and Korea, but is no longer in production, and was never in real mass production. Samsung has yet to return to OLED TV production.



Samsung flexible OLED displays

Following its initial flexible OLED production launch in 2013, and the huge success of its edge-type phones, Samsung is currently producing around 9 million flexible OLEDs each month to satisfy demand for the Galaxy S7 edge and its other flexible OLED products. Samsung has reportedly been chosen to supply 100 million flexible OLED panels to Apple's future iPhones.

Future Samsung OLED devices

Samsung is developing several next generation display technologies based on OLEDs. Samsung has been developing a foldable OLED device for a long time - which may dramatically change the mobile device market as it could enable smartphone to turn into tablets or phones that can be folded into smaller devices.

Samsung is also developing transparent OLEDs (see the company's 55" FHD transparent and mirror-type OLEDs here) for retail application, and also readies next generation displays for the automotive industry.

Several years ago Samsung released the following video, showing a concept transparent flexible AMOLED tablet device. It will be years before Samsung can commercialize such a display, but it's nice to see what the future holds:

Further reading

Latest Samsung 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%.

ETNews: SDC will make 100,000 foldable OLEDs in 2018, 1 million in 2019

Samsung Display is expected to begin foldable OLED production towards the end of 2018, as Samsung Electronics plans to begin selling foldable phones in the beginning of 2019. A new report from Korea's ETNews gives some new information on Samsung's plans.

According to ETNews, Samsung will soon be ready to start producing foldable OLEDs in a new pilot line in its A3 flexible OLED line. In 2018 the company will only be able to produce 100,000 units, and in 2019 the capacity will be about 1 million. It seems that Samsung is in a hurry to have a product out, and is currently ready to start production with low yields and high production costs (according to GBI estimates, the first foldable phone/tablet will cost over $1,800).

OLED Handbook

Chinese and Korean researchers allegedly tried to sell SDC's OLED technology secrets to China

The South Korean prosecution has indicted several officials that allegedly tried to sell OLED technology secrets to China. These officials include Korean and Chinese researchers - and also a professor at a national Korean research institution.

The Korean prosecution says that the suspects sold 5,130 files containing OLED technologies owned by Samsung Display. Some of these officials worked at a local contractor of SDC. They say that the officials were offered around $180,000 from a Chinese company - in exchange for joining the company and delivering OLED technology files.

Bloomberg: LGD to supply Apple with 2-4 million OLED displays for its 2018 iPhones

In January 2018 it was reported that LG Display is in the final stages of its discussions with Apple, and the Korean OLED maker expects to supply 15-16 million flexible OLEDs to Apple in 2018 (LGD will supply Apple with 6.5" AMOLEDs for its 2018 large iPhone OLED variant).

It was later reported by the Wall Street Journal, however, that LG Display may not be ready to produce these OLED displays in time for Apple. Today Bloomberg reports that LGD will supply OLEDs to Apple this year, but only 2-4 million panels (out of about 70 million panels) - with the rest supplied by Samsung Display of course. Bloomberg did not detail whether LGD will supply Apple with the 6.5" OLEDs or the 5.8" ones.

CLSA: it is too soon to talk about an OLED recovery

DSCC recently said that SDC's OLED fab utilization is starting to improve as production starts for next-gen iPhones and Galaxy phones, and UBI Research also says that the market recovery is starting. CLSA, however, says that it is too soon to talk about OLED recovery.

CLSA agrees that SDC's fab utilization will rise from about 35% to 80% in the second half of 2018, but CLSA also believes that Samsung is not even considering the A4 fab (30,000 monthly substrates) which will remain idle, which means that actual utilization will be lower than stated.

ETNews: SDC is building a QD-OLED TV pilot production line

In February 2018 it was first reported that Samsung Display is developing TV panels based on hybrid quantum-dots and OLED architecture (QD-OLED). Samsung later confirmed it is developing such technology, but with no immediate plans to commercialize it.

Samsung QD-OLED structure (UBI Research)

ETNews now reports that Samsung is now working to establish a pilot 8-Gen line for QD-OLED production. ETNews says that Samsung is collaborating with both Canon Tokki and Kateeva to develop the production equipment - apparently the OLED layers will be evaporated using Canon's machines while the QD filters will be deposited using ink-jet printing equipment made by Kateeva. Samsung aims to finalize the production line by the second half of 2019.

The Bell: Apple aims to sell 45 million 6.5" OLED iPhones and 25 million 5.84" OLED iPhones in 2018

More and more reports suggest that Apple's 2018 iPhone lineup (to be introduced in September 2018) will include two OLED models and one LCD models. A few days ago it the Nikkei Asian Review said that Apple's 2018 OLED iPhone launch orders will be 20% lower compared to 2017, amounting to 80 million panels.

Apple iPhone X photo

Now the Korean site The Bell says that Apple ordered 45 million 6.5" OLED panels from SDC for the iPhone Xs Plus and only 25 million for the smaller 5.84" iPhone Xs - to a total of 70 million panels. For the lower-end LCD model, Apple ordered only 30 million panels from Japan Display.

UBI Research: the OLED market will begin its recovery in Q2 2018

UBI Research says that Samsung Display's OLED shipments dropped 26% in Q1 2018 (compared to Q4 2017) to reach 88 million units (that's 4.7% lower than Q1 2017), generating $5.37 billion in revenues (down 32.4% from last quarter and 30.4% from last year). Revenues and shipments are expected to recover, though, in Q2 2018.

SDC OLED shipments and revenues Q1 2018 (UBI)

UBI says that Samsung Display will hold a market share of 93.4% of the total OLED market in 2018.

GBI: Samsung's first foldable phone could cost around $1,850

In the past months, several reports suggested that Samsung is getting ready to release its first foldable device in early 2019 (production will actually towards the end of 2018). According to Korea's Golden Bridge Investment, Samsung's foldable phone could cost around $1,850 at launch.

In-folding vs Out-folding smartphone designs

GBI also confirms earlier report that the device will have two displays, the foldable inside display and an outer display. Previously it was said that each unfolded display will be 3.5-inch in size, but GBI says that the folded display's size will be 4.5-inch, while the unfolded large display will be 7.3-inch.

DSCC: 100 million OLED panels were shipped in Q1 2018, generating $5.8 billion in revenues

Display Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC) says that in Q1 2018 OLED revenues dropped 33% compared to Q4 2017 (but grew 39% compared to Q1 2017) and amounted to $5.9 billion. DSCC says that OLED revenues will decline further in Q2 2018 but will recover in the second half of 2018. Full-year revenues are expected to reach $26.95 billion, while the market will reach $57.2 billion by 2022.

AMOLED revenue and growth (2016-2018, DSCC)

Samsung Electronics was the top OLED customer in the first quarter, and together with Apple (#2) the two companies consumer 79% of all OLED panels by revenue.