Future looking bright for OLED displays

After a long wait, OLED screens could face a bright future as the display technology of choice for many kinds of gadgets and mobile electronics.

The growing number of electronics devices using OLED (organic light emitting diode) displays shows that, after years of promise, the technology is finding a home in more and more products. But while OLED displays might challenge LCDs (liquid crystal displays) as the screens of choice for smaller gadgets, don't expect the technology to become mainstream for notebook PCs or TVs within this decade.

OLED displays use organic compounds that emit light when exposed to an electric current. They are brighter, have better contrast, offer wider viewing angles, use less power, and provide faster response times than LCDs. OLED screens can also be one-third thinner than LCDs, since they don't need a backlight, and that makes them a good fit for portable electronics devices.

With such advantages, OLED displays are beginning to appear in premium products; two Sony Corp. Network Walkmans use OLEDs and both Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics have released mobile phones with OLED main displays.

"The thinness, the depth of colors, the brightness, these are features that any company would want," said David Yang, a spokesman for Sony.

About 31 million [M] OLED panels were shipped last year, double that of 2003, according to market research firm DisplaySearch. And U.S. market research company iSuppi has counted over 50 OLED-equipped MP3 player models in the market as of March this year.

"OLEDs are visually appealing, which is important in a product that is mostly a fashion statement for young people. I was shocked at how many models are out there," said Kimberly Allen, an iSuppli analyst.

The growing adoption of OLED displays has proven that the technology is viable, despite pricing concerns.

"Some people were concerned about whether or not OLED could become a significant industry -- but I think we've proven it can," said D.C. Wang, chief executive officer of Taiwan's RiTdisplay.

RiTdisplay was the world's number two OLED panel maker in terms of shipments in 2004, with a 25 percent share, according to iSuppli. Samsung SDI led the market last year with a 44 percent share, and Pioneer of Japan was third with 20 percent, according to the research company's estimates.

Several years ago, some makers predicted OLED panels might replace LCDs as the display of choice for portable gadgets. Sanyo Electric, for example, was expected to release its first OLED-based handsets in 2003. It showed prototypes last year.

But products failed to appear. That's because OLED screens still cost about 1.5 times the price of the same-size LCD screens, and this proved too expensive for the company to use in mobile phones, it said.

OLED's price premium also rules out the technology's use in larger applications such as notebook PCs, according to Taiwan's BenQ, a major PC vendor.

"For panels, affordability trumps power savings, and LCD technology is the lowest cost right now," said Richard Hsu, a director at BenQ.

While display lifetimes are lengthening as makers improve the technology, many OLED displays only last about 5,000 hours, about half of that demanded for TVs by makers.

For small gadgets and mobile phones however, OLEDs last long enough and many OLED makers and industry analysts are optimistic about the technology's future in such applications.

OLED display shipments will double to about 60 million units in 2005 and then nearly triple to over 170 million units in 2008 as OLEDs take even more market share for MP3 players and, for example, become more common as main displays in mobile phones, according to iSuppli.

As volumes increase, prices will fall, helping OLED's competitiveness against LCD in a wider range of small displays, according to RiTdisplay's Wang. And that's good news for his company, he said.

"We will continue to expand. Big is beautiful in this industry, and we have to remain competitive," he said.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments



Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >

Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?