A flexible display is an electronic visual interface that is as flexible as a piece of paper in nature. Since 2000, it's been one of the most trending topics. Several companies have produced various kinds of flexible display prototypes ranging from flexible electronic paper such as display to flexible OLED-based display.
It is important to note that mobile phones do not only have flexible screen displays. On most electronic devices, screens are essentially the last remaining flat surface. The initial focus was on smartphones, but now evolving low-cost, long-life flexible plastic display variants are going to enable displays to be seamlessly integrated into designs and new device classes to be introduced.
There are two main categories of organic display technologies including the flexible organic light-emitting diode (OLED) that has been in production since 2012 and is used in the Samsung and Huawei phones announced at MWC 2019, and the flexible organic liquid crystal display (OLCD), which has been under development since 2014 and will be in production in the coming years.
Durability is a crucial plus point in flexible displays
Durability is the greatest advantage of flexible displays. Since the panel can be bent and twisted, the effect can also be better absorbed than we currently have solid glass structures. Therefore, broken screens may be a thing of the past. It's going to take some time before we reach that point, though. Currently, it is believed that bendable displays will use plastic instead of glass, but under extreme stress, the plastic itself can still break. Manufacturers such as Corning are currently working on a flexible glass called Willow, which is planned to be put in everything from telephones to televisions to transportation devices. Willow is as thin as paper and can also be twisted. But if it gets too rounded up, it will still break.
Commercial production of large format flexible displays is on its way…
After years of speculation and excitement, flexible smartphones are finally commercial products, starting with the Huawei Mate X and the Samsung Galaxy Fold. Flexible displays have been common in R&D labs for a very long time. The two biggest challenges are to find out how to produce them in volume and build them in such a way that they are long-lasting enough to hold on to daily use.
The manufacturing scale is always a big problem. That's part of the reason why these displays are so extremely expensive: their output yields are very poor. Premium smartphones have been using flexible displays for years because they are less likely to crack, but their flexibility is limited: nothing like projector screen contortions that most people think of when they hear "flexible display."
How are flexible displays shaping technology?
Foldable have been prevalent across the top trends of 2019. Only Samsung and Huawei had their respective modular phones on show at the annual smartphone extravaganza in Barcelona, although they were purely hands-off for most people, considering that the Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X were sealed inside glass cases.
While the market-readiness of these products, and even their practicalities, has been challenged, it is clear that digital displays are developing into something very different — which could lead to some significant developments across the technology sector.
In the future, we may be looking back on many of these applications of flexible screen technology and grimace. But as new technological capabilities emerge, it's only natural for people to play around with innovative ways to pack and market them— you might not want a TV on your t-shirt or top hat, but it's clear that we're preparing to enter a very interesting phase for mobile form factors.
Flexible OLED - Best solutions for next-gen smartphones
Flexible OLED display provides the best option for superior image quality with a very high contrast ratio, a wider range of colors; faster refresh rates and wide viewing angles. It also facilitates small, light, curved, flexible, foldable shape factors and design differentiation. In a developed, slow-demand growth market, smartphone brands are searching for differentiation to drive replacement demand.
Samsung's Galaxy devices and Apple's flagship iPhones products have pioneered flexible OLED displays. The technology is set to conquer the next-generation smartphone market with smaller, lighter, less lens, immersive displays and differentiating form factors. But high costs can reduce the rate of adoption in the near term, particularly when most of the growth comes from lower-priced mass-market products.
Flexible OLED - Integration, revolution and differentiation can help adoption
The flexible display market is slowing down due to high prices. Market demand for flexible OLED display-based products from Samsung and Apple is decelerating. This resulted in lower usage rates for flexible displays and surpluses. Further shifting to foldable display would minimize surplus plus increased demand even though there are still many challenges to foldable smartphones.
The launch of 5G-based products requiring slimmer displays to fit 5G-enabled components will boost flexible OLED demand. Integrating new technologies such as fingerprints on display, cell display, hole on display, camera on display, haptic on display, chip on film (COF)/chip on plastic (COP) to minimize border and increase screen-to-body ratio and foldable display will open up new opportunities for flexible OLEDs to drive demand growth and increase adoption rates.