We keep hearing news to the effect that next year, 2017, will be the year of OLED displays, that is to say the year in which OLED screens really take over from LCD once and for all as the mainstream display type for smartphones. There are a number of manufacturers who've been adopting OLED displays in the last 12-18 months, but there are a few major landmarks on the horizon for things really kicking into a higher gear.
Most notably 2017's iPhone family is strongly rumoured to be adopting OLED following Apple's use of LCD for many years. Meanwhile, firms with their own OLED production businesses, including LG and Samsung, are reportedly investing billions into their facilities and technology, partly to meet what is percevied to be a growing demand generally in the months and years ahead, but also to provide panels specifically for Apple's products.
On top of this, there is increasing innovation in the sector. Samsung's latest Super AMOLED panels seen aboard the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 EDGE have been widely praised as the "best" smartphone display panels ever produced thanks to much investment in time and money into honing the technology to this point.
Industry leading display analysts at DisplayMate undertook an in-depth investigation into the S7 series' Super AMOLED tech and found it to outperform rival offerings in all areas, with the highest performance for brightness, sunlight readability, most accurate colour gamut and much more. In case you were still in any doubt about why OLED can often be a superior option to the now-aging LCD, Samsung has released an official comparison video demonstrating the two technologies in competition.
The positive properties of OLED have been known for some time, but it has taken a while not only for the tech to become this finely configured, but also for manufacturing practices to reach a point where it is no longer significantly more expensive than LCD; this is repeatedly stated as one of the main reasons LCD has remained preferable for so long, it has been cheaper and easier to source. Until now.
LG has also confirmed that it too will be upping its investment in OLED display technology from here on out. And the reason? Simple: demand for this type of display will increase during the second half of 2016 -- and the reason for this is Apple -- and other players -- switching to OLED display panals in late-2016 and 2017.
"It's true that we were late in OLED investment for smaller electronics devices compared to that of televisions. It's undeniable that flexible OLEDs are now the mega-trend in the mobile segment and we will have to embrace that," said Han Sang Beom, chief executive officer of LG Display. "We can't help but rely on LCDs for the time being because our revenue from OLEDs still accounts for less than 10%. We've never thought about giving up LCD, but we are considering gradually closing the older generation fabs."
The final big indicator of the rise of OLED going forward is another innovation point - Samsung's flexible OLED displays seem to have been well-received with regards to uptake of its curved (yet fixed) EDGE display panels; multple reports say that the Galaxy S7 EDGE outsold its flat-screened counterpart by quite a margin. In addition, 2017 is expected to see the commercial launch of the industry's and Samsung's first true folding and flexible OLED smartphone as the Samsung Galaxy X, this is the kind of innovation that is sure to spawn a mass of imitators, not least because we know many other firms including LG are also working on flexible OLED tech of their own.