US and China based Royole launched the world's first foldable OLED device - the FlexPai phone/tablet. The FlexPai has a 7.8" 1920x1440 (308 PPI) AMOLED display, when unfolded, The display folds outwards, and when folded the device has three different displays (front, back and spine).
Royole is now accepting pre-orders for the "Developer Mode" device, starting at $1318 for the 128GB model. The first devices will ship in late December 2018. The company said the device has passed bending, twisting and tension tests over 200,000 times, and the display is much more durable compared to current displays (as it is not covered by glass).
According to a report from ETNews, LG Display is collaborating with Lenovo to develop a foldable tablet. The tablet will use a 13" foldable OLED - which LGD aims to start producing in the second half of 2019.
The 13" display will be around 9" when folded. So this device will stay in the tablet size category when folded, this will not compete in the smartphone market. This is the first time we hear of such a device under development - which could make sense as a tablet is not used as much as a smartphone is - and so the number of supported folding cycles can be lower.
In 2013, Samsung 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 the foldable smartphone concept presented in 2013 (see image below) is still exciting consumers - and many of them are still waiting for Samsung to commercialize the technology.
Samsung Display announced that its unbreakable smartphone panel has been certified Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the official testing company for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor. This display was first demonstrated at SID 2018.
This display is not aimed for just smartphones - SDC sees it being used in the automotive market, the defense market, portable game consoles and tablet PCs. The display is a flexible AMOLED on an "unbreakable" substrate with an overlay plastic window securely adhered to it.
Samsung Display is expected to begin foldable OLED production towards the end of 2018, as Samsung Electronics plans to begin selling foldable phones in the beginning of 2019. A new report from Korea's ETNews gives some new information on Samsung's plans.
According to ETNews, Samsung will soon be ready to start producing foldable OLEDs in a new pilot line in its A3 flexible OLED line. In 2018 the company will only be able to produce 100,000 units, and in 2019 the capacity will be about 1 million. It seems that Samsung is in a hurry to have a product out, and is currently ready to start production with low yields and high production costs (according to GBI estimates, the first foldable phone/tablet will cost over $1,800).
DSCC updated its forecast for display equipment spending, saying that in 2018 OLED spending is expected to fall 28% compared to 2017 to $10.8 billion (while LCD spending will grow 22% to $11.4 billion). China-based display makers will account for 90% of all display related equipment spending in 2018.
2019 will see another down year for OLED spending that will drop 31% to $7.4 billion (LCD spending is also expected to fall by 32%). Chinese display makers will again lead in spending (77% of the market).
China-based BOE Display had an impressive booth at SID, where it displayed the company's latest displays. The company's flexible and foldable OLED prototypes and panels took center stage, as BOE is ramping up its flexible OLED production and is also developing its next generation technologies.
BOE's foldable prototype was a 6.2" WQHD (1440x3008, 538 PPI) panel that features a fold-radius of 1R and include a touch layer. The display has a super narrow border, and is 0.21 mm thick. BOE says that it can withstand over 100,000 bending cycles.
UBI Research says that foldable OLED display production will begin in 2019, and will quickly grow to over 28 million units shipped in 2022. The growth will be fast - but in total UBI sees the market remaining relatively small even at 2022, with most OLEDs on the marketing to remain flexible but not foldable.
UBI says that if OLED makers will be able to launch and commercialize foldable OLEDs, it could seriously disrupt the tablet PC market. The company expects the first foldable phone to use dual 5.2" displays (7.2" display when open) on the inside, with an additional small "bar-type" display when closed.
In the past few weeks we heard many reports that following lower than expected OLED orders from Apple (due to disappointing iPhone X sales) Samsung Display has suddenly found itself with under utilized OLED production lines.
Photonics-based solutions provider Coherent reported its financial results for CYQ4 2017 and as Coherent supplies laser equipment for FPD makers, it is usually a good indicator to the OLED market expansion stages. According to Coherent, there has been no real change in the timing of equipment shipments, and the company did not notice any hesitancy among display makers in china regarding the scale up of new OLED fabs. In fact the company says that the "momentum that is behind OLED seems to be quite strong and quite sustainable over a long period of time".