The recent furore over OLED display quality, only highlighted because of the rabid Google phone fans (and critics), have really brought OLED production into the news. It’s way more interesting than I imagined.
- Samsung Displays (the section of the mega Samsung responsible for manufacturing displays from phone sized to TV sized), makes most of the production-ready speed and quality of phone OLEDs in the world. >90% of the main market in some cases. Wow.
- LG is like the second player, and LG’s tech – comprising both manufacturing capability, technical knowledge, quality control, is on the entirely up to 3 years behind Samsung. They are trying their best to catch up, and they are catching up, which will get better as they have more production units, but it is still expected to take 1-2 years worth. Even then, Samsung will probably still be the leader, but maybe not the whole dominating runaway leader by then, with their pricing reigned in somewhat.
- The best Samsung displays – because in production you will have better manufactured parts in all variances, no doubt go to Samsung’s top end phones and possibly Apple’s phones since Apple will be paying top dollar and full premium for these exclusive reservations. Apple’s iPhone X uses Samsung OLEDs, especially the larger and higher res phone sized OLEDs, and these are still in relatively limited production quantity, hence the ipx is so low production, hence the ip8/8+ do not use OLEDs.
- This is also probably the reason why Google’s Pixel 2 uses the smaller Samsung OLED which is produced in better and cheaper quantity, but did not manage to either secure enough supply of the larger screen or it is too expensive. The ipx is really expensive – a few hundred dollars more, and the S Note 8 is Samsung’s own phone so they can probably cost it in cheaper.
- LG’s production of larger sized OLEDs is the alternative. With Google, and Apple, both making huge monetary support to LG to make sure LG can survive and invest into future production. Ie $1 billion support from these two companys each, that kind of support. But so currently LG has a tougher time making higher quality displays, and at a higher consistency level, but it is cheaper, it is available in bigger supply than the Samsung panels.
- LG is bringing up more production factories, with newer tech, but it is taking time or slower supply or still in the pipeline, ie not ready for 2017 holiday season phones upfront.
- OLED display production depends alot on a Canon tech called Canon Tokki, for making the wafers/chips, and this item is also in super limited quality – single digit production per year. Samsung has been buying this up non-stop, making it harder for LG and others to get hold of it.
- There are other smaller players trying to get into OLED production but none of them are significant right now, especially in China.
- More interestingly, both Samsung and LG have sufficient tech to produce the more fancy type of OLEDs like flexible displays, but consumer acceptance/demand might not be sufficient right now and production might not be ready. However it is in the future cards for sure. That’s going to be super interesting especially for wearables.
- Apple iWatch uses LG OLED, LG V30 uses LG OLED.
- TV sized OLED wise, LG is the runaway leader, with many other companies like Sony and Panasonic using LG made OLED in their TVs. Apparently the tech is quite different from phone to TV sized.
- Last year’s Google Pixel had a severe shortage of displays, and maybe amongst other things.
Going by this, OLED will take over top and mid-to-high-tier phones by next year. Prices of the part should drop a bit if LG keeps up expansion. The tech should stabilize or get better. By 2019 it should be stable.