Although liquid-crystal display (LCD) has dominated mobile phone displays for more than 15 years, organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display technology is set to become the leading smartphone display technology in 2020. IHS Markit analysts claim that AMOLED displays with a low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS) backplane will account for more than one-third (36 percent) of all smartphone displays shipped in 2020, becoming the most-used display technology in smartphone displays, surpassing a-Si (amorphous silicon) thin-film transistor (TFT) LCD and LTPS TFT LCD displays.
"While OLED is currently more difficult to manufacture, uses more complicated materials and chemical processes, and requires a keen focus on yield-rate management, it is an increasingly attractive technology for smartphone brands," said David Hsieh, senior director, IHS Markit. "OLED displays are not only thinner and lighter than LCD displays, but they also boast better color performance and enable flexible display form factors that can lead to more innovative design."
Samsung Electronics has already adopted OLED displays in its smartphone models, and there is also increasing demand from Chinese Huawei, OPPO, Vivo, Meizu and other smartphone brands. Apple is also widely expected to use OLED displays in its upcoming iPhone models.
At one time, OLED displays were entirely glass-based and in terms of performance, there was little difference between LCD and OLED displays. Now, flexible OLED displays made from thinner and lighter plastic are enabled and have drawn Apple’s attention. "Apple’s upcoming adoption of OLED displays will be a milestone for OLED in the display industry," Hsieh said.
Samsung Display, LG Display, Sharp, JDI, BOE, Tianma, GVO, Truly, and CSOT are also starting to ramp up their AMOLED manufacturing capacities and devote more resources to technology development. Samsung Display’s enormous sixth-generation A3 AMOLED fab, for example, will enable even more AMOLED displays to reach the market. Global AMOLED manufacturing capacity will increase from 5 million square meters in 2014 to 30 million square meters in 2020.
"Many display manufacturers were investing in LTPS LCD, thinking it would overtake a-Si technology," Hsieh said. "However, many of the fabs under construction, especially in China, have had to change their plans to add OLED evaporation and encapsulation tools, because OLED penetration has been more rapid than previously expected."