Article last updated on: Feb 20, 2019

Foldable OLED displays are exciting - as these displays will enable new device form factors - such as phones that open into tablets, smart bands that open into smartphones and more. In 2019 we will finally see the first foldable smartphones on the market!

Samsung Galaxy X prototype photo

The first foldable smartphones

In 2013, Samsung kicked off the foldable OLED market, sort of, when it announced its YOUM flexible OLED brand, showing off several flexible OLED prototypes - including a foldable phone/tablet. Samsung never used the YOUM brand name again, but Samsung has continued to develop its foldable OLED technology.

In 2015 we started hearing the first reports of Samsung's Project Valley. Samsung hoped to release its first foldable device in 2016, but the company faced many challenges including problems with the substrate and the software and user interface. In 2019 the company is finally set to introduce its first device, the Samsung Galaxy F (F for foldable)

Samsung Galaxy X folding design image

Samsung's first foldable device will have two screens - a large 7.3" 1532x2152 (361 PPI) foldable AMOLED that folds inside, and a smaller 4.5" 840x1960 AMOLED that is used when the phone is closed. Samsung brands the display as the Samsung Infinity Flex Display. The Galaxy F is relatively thick and bulky - and will carry a very high cost and be produced in limited volume.



Other companies are also developing such devices - Royole is already shipping a "developer" edition of the FlexPai phone/tablet, with its 7.8" 1920x1440 (308 PPI) AMOLED display that fold outwards. Xiaomi has teased a beautiful tri-folded OLED smartphone and Huawei will unveil its first foldable smartphone in MWC 2019.

Foldable OLED developers

Samsung Display is not the only display maker to develop foldable OLED technologies. China's BOE Display seems to be another leading foldable OLED developer. In May 2018, BOE demonstrated several impressive new technologies, including a 6.2" 1440x3008 foldable (1R) OLED display with a touch layer and a foldable 7.56" 2048x1535 OLED. According to reports, BOE is working with three companies, including Huawei, with four different devices under development.

In September 2018, Chinese smartphone maker Nubia unveiled its first foldable device, the Nubia Alpha. The Alpha uses a tall and slim foldable OLED and turns from a slim phone to a wearable smartwatch. Nubia claims that the device will ship in China by the end of 2018. The producer of the Nubia Alpha's display is China-based Visionox. Visionox is also supplying the OLEDs to Xiaomi's prototypes.

Nubia alpha photo

Besides Samsung, Visionox and BOE, other display makers have demonstrated foldable OLEDs, but it seems that none are as mature as Samsung and BOE. LG Display has been reportedly collaborating with Apple, Google and Microsoft on this project (this hasn't been confirmed) but its plans are to release its first panel only in 2020. Tianma also demonstrated foldable OLEDs in 2018, and so did Everdisplay and Royole- but it does not seem as if these companies are ready to begin production in the near future.

The foldable OLED market

It seems that 2019 will be the year of the foldable OLED. Market analyst firm DSCC estimates that by 2022 the market for foldable OLED will reach 63 million units, up from 3 million in 2019 (a CAGR of 173%).

Foldable OLED shipment forecasts (2019-2022, DSCC)

Flexible OLEDs Market Report

If you want to fully understand the flexible and foldable OLED display and lighting markets, check out our Flexible OLED Market Report. This comprehensive report explains:

  • Why flexible displays and lighting panels are so exciting
  • What kind of flexible displays are currently on the market
  • What the future holds for flexible OLEDs
  • Foldable OLED plans and forecasts
  • How to acquire flexible OLEDs for your products

The report package also provides a complete list of flexible OLED developers and makers and their current (and future) products, and a lot more. Read more here!

The latest foldable OLED news:

CSoT demonstrates its first foldable AMOLED prototype

China-based CSoT demonstrated a foldable OLED prototype at SID DisplayWeek 2019, I believe this is the first time the company has shown a foldable display.

CSoT recently started pilot production at its 6-Gen LTPS flexible AMOLED production line in Wuhan and the company already achieved some design wins with "top-class" phone makers and is expected to start shipping OLED displays to its customers in Q4 2019. The Wuhan fab will have a monthly production capacity of 45,000 6-Gen substrates.

Huawei delays the launch of its foldable OLED Mate X smartphone

In February 2019 Huawei launched its first foldable smartphone, the Mate X with a 8" 2200x2480 foldable AMOLED display that folds outwards. Huawei said it will launch the Mate X by the end of June, but now the company says it is now planning to release it in September.

Huawei says that it needs more time to test the device and make sure it is durable. It is also possible that the US ban on Huawei is behind this decision.

LGD confirms it is Lenovo's 13.3" foldable OLED supplier

Earlier this month Lenovo demonstrated a prototype 13.3" foldable OLED ThinkPad laptop. We speculated that LGD is the display supplier, and yesterday LGD's CTO confirmed this.

Lenovo said that it developed this device for over three years, and hopes to launched a commercial one in 2020. InOctober 2018 it was first reported that LG Display is working together with Lenovo on a 13.3" foldable OLED laptop device, but that was not confirmed until now.

Lenovo demonstrates a foldable 13.3" Windows laptop

Update: LGD confirms it is supplying the 13.3" foldable OLEDs to Lenovo's prototypes.

Lenovo demonstrated a prototype foldable ThinkPad laptop, that features a 13.3" foldable OLED display. Lenovo says that it developed this device for over three years, and hopes to launched a commercial one in 2020.

The reporters at The Verge really liked the device, but noted that the hardware is clearly not finished - the folding mechanism for example did not feel sturdy (and we all know this is critical in a foldable device) and the display itself suffers from "remarkably poor viewing angles".

Intel is looking into foldable OLED laptops, will not arrive before 2021

GizChina reports that senior executives at Intel said that the company is looking at laptops with foldable OLED displays, working together with LG Display, Samsung Display, BOE and Sharp. There are many challenges to overcome, and Intel estimates that such foldable laptops will not arrive before 2021.

In October 2018 Samsung Electronics said that it is developing laptops with foldable displays, while other reports suggested that that LG Display is collaborating with Lenovo to develop a 13" foldable tablet.

Samsung says it resolved the Galaxy Fold issues and will soon announce a new launch date in the US

On April 23th, after early reviewers reported that that the foldable screen in their Galaxy Fold devices broke down after a day or so, Samsung decided to delay the release of its foldable smartphone. Samsung's CEO now says that the company will soon announce a new launch plan for the Galaxy Fold in the US, after it had resolved the issues with the display.

Samsung Galaxy Fold photo

Samsung says that it has "reviewed" the defects caused by particles that entered the device below the screen. Samsung will strengthen the durability of the exposed area on the hinge of the phone and will minimize the gap between the protective layer and the bezel of the main display in order to prevent any external substances from penetrating the device.

Samsung cannot yet confirm a shipping date for the Galaxy Fold

On April 23th, following the reports from early reviewers that the foldable screen in their Galaxy Fold devices broke down after a day or so, Samsung decided to delay the release of its foldable smartphone. Yesterday Samsung sent out a message to its US pre-order customers saying that it apologizes for the delay - and cannot yet confirm a shipping date.

Samsung Galaxy Fold photo

Customers who pre-ordered the $1,980 Galaxy Fold were sent this message: "If we do not hear from you and we have not shipped by May 31st, your order will be canceled automatically". Samsung says that according to US regulations, it was required to send this message and cancel orders if the Fold will not ship before May 31.

iFixit review provides a possible reason why some Galaxy Fold screen failed

The teardown experts at iFixit reviewed the Galaxy Fold and have taken it apart as they usually do with new smartphone - to find out why some of early review units failed so quickly (which caused Samsung to delay the launch of their highly anticipated foldable phone).

Broken Galaxy Fold screen, The Verge

According to their analysis, the Galaxy Fold design has a weakness - and dust or other particles could enter the phone through the gaps in the top, bottom and the back of the device. This could create "bumps" on the display as the foldable display is pressed against the backside of the phone when fully folded. iFixit speculates that this could be the cause of the some of the reported display failures (another possible problem could be the removal of the protective top polyimide film).

Samsung delays the launch of the Galaxy Fold

Following the reports from early reviewers that the foldable screen in their Galaxy Fold devices broke down after a day or so, Samsung has decided to delay the release of its foldable smartphone.

Samsung Galaxy Fold photo

According to the Wall Street Journal, Samsung wants to "fully evaluate the feedback and run further internal tests". Samsung will announce a new release date int he coming weeks. Samsung did not fully disclose its initial findings and does not give a full explanation to what went wrong with these review units. Samsung did, however, state that "Initial findings from the inspection of reported issues on the display showed that they could be associated with impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge. There was also an instance where substances found inside the device affected the display performance."