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

DisplayMate: the Google Pixel 3 AMOLED is made by SDC, is a top-notch smartphone display

Display measurement experts Display Mate posted an in-depth review of the Google Pixel 3 XL 6.3" 1440x2960 AMOLED display. The display wins DisplayMate's highest ever Overall Display Assessment Grade of A+ together with a DisplayMate Best Smartphone Display Award.

Google Pixel 3 photo

DisplayMate says that Google now joins Apple and Samsung as the top tier of smartphone displays. The Google 3 XL display is on par with the AMOLED display used in Samsung's Galaxy S9. Interestingly, it turns out that Samsung Display provides this 6.3" AMOLED display to the Pixel 3 XL, while LG Display is likely to be the supplier for the smaller 5.5" 1080x2160 display used in the Pixel 3.

Reports from Korea estimate SDC's QD-OLED investments at $8.8 billion between 2019 and 2021

In April 2018 Samsung announced it is developing QD-OLEDs (hybrid Quantum Dots - OLED) TVs. Later reports suggested that the company is building its first production line, with aims to begin pilot production in 2019.

Samsung QD-OLED structure (UBI Research)

According to a new report from Korea, if Samsung's initial QD-OLED development is successful, it plans to convert an existing LCD line (SDC's 8-Gen L8-1 line) to QD-OLED production in 2020. Samsung's projected investment in its QD-OLED production will exceed $8.8 billion between 2019 and 2021.

OLED Automotive Market Report

ETNews: Samsung's rigid OLED production recovers to its 2017 level

According to Korea's ETNews, SDC's rigid OLED production level has recovered fully in Q3 2018 and is now even higher than the production level in Q3 2017. Most of the new demand comes from China-based smartphone producers. ETNews says that SDC's A2 factory's utilization rates were over 90% in Q3 2018 (up from about 80% in Q3 2017).

Samsung's flexible OLED production has also recovered following new shipments to Apple's iPhone XS and XS Max, but the utilization rate in SDC's A3 flexible OLED fab is still lower than last year's.

Where are the transparent OLEDs?

Transparent displays are of great interest, and many envision a plethora of possible applications that use transparent screens in the retail, commercial and consumer markets. There are many exciting applications - but none with real and immediate demand.

Many OLED makers are developing transparent OLEDs, and in the past we've seen several producers that introduced such displays to the market - only to halt production a few months later. Device makers are on the lookout for such displays, and are still disappointed even though the technology is ready.

Who will win the foldable smartphone race?

In 2013, Samsung announced its YOUM flexible OLED brand, showing off several flexible OLED prototypes - including a foldable phone/tablet. Samsung never used the YOUM brand name again, but the foldable smartphone concept presented in 2013 (see image below) is still exciting consumers - and many of them are still waiting for Samsung to commercialize the technology.

Fast forward to 2015, and the first reports of Samsung's Project Valley started to surface. Samsung started to actually develop a foldable phone, with plans to release its first device in 2016. Samsung faced many challenges - and delays - in its foldable smartphone project (which was recently renamed to Project Winner) - including problems with the substrate and the software and user interface.

Where are the 2 to 4 inch AMOLED displays?

All AMOLED makers are currently focused on two major markets - smartphone displays and wearable displays. This leaves out an important part of the market - displays that are between 1.5" and 5" in size, and device makers that want to adopt AMOLED displays in this size segment find it impossible to find the displays they want.

Apple iPhone X and Watch photo

As smartphones grew larger and larger in recent years, the display makers are focusing on 5 to 6.5 inch for their smartphone display portfolio. Wearable AMOLED displays are exclusively aimed towards smartwatches - which use displays sized 1 to 1.5-inch, many of whom are round displays.

BOE to supply OLED displays for Samsung's Galaxy Watch?

According to reports from Korea, Samsung Electronics is in talks with BOE regarding a possible OLED supply agreement for Samsung's Galaxy Watch. BOE is working on samples as it aims to replace the 1.3" and 1.2" Galaxy Watch displays currently produced by Samsung Display.

Samsung Galaxy Watch photo

This is a rather surprising report - as Samsung Display is a subsidiary of Samsung Electronics, and it has excess capacity in its OLED production fabs. It could be that Samsung Electronics is trying to put pressure on SDC to lower its prices, and of course this would be an excellent deal for BOE and a great endorsement for its OLEDs.

DSCC: Samsung to begin pilot QD-OLED production in 2019

DSCC estimates that Samsung will begin pilot production of QD-OLEDs in 2019, with a capacity of 5,000 monthly 8.5-Gen substrates. If this is successful, Samsung will double the capacity in 2020 and add a further 30,000 yearly substrates in 2021 and again in 2022. Material revenues for Samsung's QD-OLED TVs will reach $56 million in 2022.

Material revenue forecast for QD-OLED TVs (DSCC, 2016-2022)

DSCC admits, though, that as Samsung faces several technical challenges before it could launch commercial QD-OLED TVs, its forecast could be way off - there's a good chance that SDC will cancel the project, or it could increase capacity at a much faster rate than DSCC estimates and even scale-up production to 10.5-Gen.

Samsung Display announces it is supplying Audi with its 7" AMOLED for the E-Tron SUV

A couple of weeks ago Audi launched its first electric SUV, the e-tron SUV - with optional 7" OLED virtual side mirrors and external cameras instead of the normal side-view mirrors.

Audi e-Tron prototype virtual mirror (2018)

Today, Samsung Display announced it is the producer of these 7" AMOLEDs. The OLED displays include a touch layer which can be used to zoom the image while parking to optimize the field of vision.