Flexible OLED Displays Starting in 2012 and Increasing to Major Market Share in 2015

Wired – Flexible displays have tickled our imaginations for years. And before the end of 2012, we’ll finally see companies employing flexible displays in their products. But while the possibilities are tantalizing, don’t let your imagination run wild. The earliest iterations of flexible displays won’t be very bendy, and they won’t appear in Apple hardware as some news outlets have recently speculated.

In early March, Samsung announced it would be mass-producing its flexible OLED displays, like the one seen above, by the end of this year.

Samsung is talking about relatively modest production runs of the new flexible technology — 960,000 OLED sheets according to the Korea Times. This level of output simply isn’t enough to accommodate the production demands for Apple gear, which, for devices like the iPhone, can reach into the hundreds of millions.

Nonetheless, Gillett and Colegrove expect flexible display technology to hit the consumer market on a relatively small scale before the year’s end. E-readers should be the first devices to include flexible e-paper displays. They’ll remain flat in shape, but provide all the ruggedness manufacturers look for, Colegrove said. As for Samsung’s flexible OLED technology, it will appear in phones in 2012, and possibly in tablets next year.

And if you’re looking to find a flexible display in an iDevice, you’ll probably have to wait until the 2013-2014 time frame, says Colgrove — with truly bendy iDevices appearing in 2015 at the earliest.

There are two reasons why Samsung’s flexible OLED is attractive to device manufacturers. First, the display is thin, lightweight and difficult to break — this offers immediate design benefits. Second, any type of new, novel technology offers marketing benefits. You can hear the commercial spiel now: “We have the first flexible AMOLED display devices in human history!”

“I think it’s highly possible that the display will be used in a flat formfactor, or in a slightly curved shape,” Colegrove said. And while the display itself might be curved, its shape would be fixed — a user won’t be able to freely bend it or roll it up like a newspaper (or at least not this year).

Seen above is an image of a prototype flexible organic light emitting diode (OLED) display developed by Samsung Mobile Display. / Korea Times file

OLEDinfo – DisplaySearch says that the global OLED market is expected to grow to 242.5 million units in 2012, up 128% compared to 2011. Revenue will reach $5.93 billion, up 102% from last year (which means that DisplaySearch sees a rather drastic price drops in OLEDs, as average panel size will most likely go up in 2012 as OLEDs start to appear in tablets and TVs).

DisplaySearch says that OLED displays are estimated to take around 4% of the total flat panel display (FPD) industry in 2011, and this will grow to around 16% in 2018. Revenue wise, OLEDs will grow from over $4 billion in 2011 to over $20 billion in 2018. A few weeks ago DisplaySearch said that AMOLED display revenue will reach $3.36 billion in 2011 – which means that they forecast around $700 million in PMOLED revenue.

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