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Smartphone Displays - AMOLED vs LCD

There are many technologies in the research labs that are aimed to improve the sunlight visibility and power consumption of modern displays. A few of them will even see consumer devices shipping in the near future. 

Vouching to dispose with the plague of sunlight visibility, Pixel Qi (pronounced "chee") is a hybrid technology, that acts like a regular LCD. When the backlighting is turned off, it uses external ambient light reflected from the pixels to give bright, eReader type of experience with video capabilities outside under direct sunlight. Here is a video of a 10" USB-powered prototype, compared to a regular 10" LCD. With the backlighting off, the Pixel Qi draws a tenth of the power needed to run an LCD display. Various touchscreen and digitizer options can be added on top of this hybrid display as well.

Qualcomm's Mirasol screen uses reflective technology, similar to Pixel Qi with the backlighting off. Thus, compared to LCD, it saps power only when you turn the page, not when the image is static. It is viewable in direct sunlight, as it uses refracted ambient lighting to produce an image - the more external light, the brighter the screen, opposite of LCD. This technology has been inspired by the way butterfly wings work with light, hence the butterfly shown on the prototypes, and in the logo. The advantage over E-Ink is that it can also show quite a bit of color, and play video at 30fps, and possibly more. Rumors are that we might see it in the next iterations of Amazon's Kindle. Touchscreen options can be incorporated in the Mirasol displays too.

Now off to the cool stuff. There are a few problems facing OLED-based screen's mass adoption - lifetime and cheaper scalability. For now, AMOLED screens can be produced with decent costs only in small sizes. DuPont recently introduced a printing method for AMOLED screens, where it did a 50” screen for two hours, that should last about 15 years. Other companies are hot on the heels with similar technologies, and a breakthrough is expected when they license them to big manufacturers. 

The advancements in production methods are worth pursuing since it is again OLED-based displays, where the coveted adjectives "transparent", “durable”, “flexible”, “bendable” and even “wrappable” can be applied to. Thanks to their simpler construction, and the fact that the emitting layer itself can be extremely thin, Samsung, TDK and Sony have demonstrated durable, transparent, and even rollable screens.

Now, to take a walk on the wild side, the ubiquitous nano particles can have their say in the advancements of screen technologies as well. For LCDs, they promise ultra high-definition screens, with pixel sizes eight times smaller than those of the Retina Display. For OLED-based screen, nanotechnologies research forecasts a few thousand cd/m2 brightness, compared to the 365 cd/m2 that the Galaxy S screen is achieving. What is more, a method to vertically stack layers is still in the lab stage, but holds more promises for cheaper production of large size efficient AMOLED screens than a medicine for bald men.

If we had to bet, our money would be on OLED as the technology with more development potential. Advancements in OLED’s mass production, brightness and power consumption will be happening exponentially, whereas LCD probably nears its peak. Again, if one doesn’t have a dozen smartphone screens in front of them to nitpick on their differences, the best modern displays do all you ask them to, and then some.

source: DisplayMate

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posted on 20 Oct 2010, 01:48

1. LeoKai (unregistered)

Great post!

posted on 13 Oct 2010, 13:21

2. russellw10 (Posts: 13; Member since: 15 Feb 2010)

I didn't read through this whole post cause i'm too ored to read all 4 pages but i hope they mentioned that OLED screens consume 3 times more electricity than LCD screens when producing white. OLED to me is a lot better than LCD for movies, pictures, gaming, and many other stuff. But I think LCD is better for computers, tablets, and any other device that is going on the interenet a lot. The Internet is mostly white.

posted on 13 Oct 2010, 14:37

5. KNOWITALL (unregistered)

Yes, they did mention that.

posted on 29 Oct 2010, 23:55 2

17. koku (unregistered)

$10 says you actually read that and just wanna make yourself sound smart :)

posted on 13 Oct 2010, 13:56

3. ickyob (Posts: 24; Member since: 19 Mar 2010)

Really informative article, thanks!

posted on 13 Oct 2010, 14:09

4. belivingtheword (Posts: 9; Member since: 06 Nov 2009)

Since I am reading the article and viewing the videos from an LCD screen, the visual comparisons are not getting the justice they deserve. :-) Great article.

posted on 13 Oct 2010, 15:28

6. Pings (Posts: 304; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

AMOLED just looks so good...

posted on 13 Oct 2010, 20:58

7. remixfa (Posts: 14605; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

over all i think this is one of the best written and least biased articles on the site in quite some time. I wish they had more articles on this. My question comes from the LCD/Super Amoled brightness comparison. My Vibrant kills my eyes in the dark on anything but the lowest setting and might as well be a table lamp on the highest setting. There is no way those pics were "turned the whole way up". Other than that, good stuff. Anyone with a galaxyS variant notice that the screen is actually capable of going just a bit "darker" now than it used to be? I used to never take it off the lowest setting unless i was outside with my sunglasses on, now its actually pretty dark. better for battery saving :)

posted on 14 Oct 2010, 01:17

9. gridlock (Posts: 31; Member since: 10 Jun 2010)

It is not the brightness that kills your eyes in the dark on the SAMOLED, it is the incredibly saturated colors on an almost unlimited contrast ratio - these are definite advantages in low light situations. still, as the guy ppointed out, you rarely sit alone with your phone in the dark, there is usually light around...but SAMOLEDs I read can reach a few thousand nits brightness in a few years, so then LCD can bite the dust :)

posted on 13 Oct 2010, 21:07

8. Verizon genius (unregistered)

awsome article, probably the most complex and detailed i have read on here....

posted on 14 Oct 2010, 13:39

10. notcool (unregistered)

Fascinating stuff. I didn't knew the amoled uses more power displaying white. The cell phone manufacturers can easily cheat in battery capacity tests using black backgrounds. However, in my humble opinion, I'd rather choose the display with high pixel count than the display showing more vivid colors. Why? Because it is not ONLY about viewing videos or dark-themed sites. It is all about the best you can get, and there isn't a thing that can make me choose lower resolution over the brightness and vividness (making up terms) , simply because the smartphone display should be capable of producing everything OK. Not dark menus better. Not videos better. Not websites with dark themes better. Best of all worlds make the picture complete. To me that means high-resolution display capable of showing text and images sharp enough to read without having to double tap. I don't care If I should change the viewing angle a bit, as long as it gives me more pleasurable experience.

posted on 14 Oct 2010, 17:57

11. 530gemini (Posts: 2198; Member since: 09 Sep 2010)

We need more highly informative articles like this. Great job PA.

posted on 15 Oct 2010, 12:35

12. unregistered (unregistered)

It seems like this article is making an issue of the white background consuming more color but failed to point out that at all other tested colors the SAMOLED consumes at 40-70% than Retina. It's like saying doing a thousand good deeds won't save your from hell if you just did one thing evil.

posted on 16 Oct 2010, 10:19

13. calamazoo (unregistered)

Yeah, but it all evens out in the end, resulting in the Super AMOLED phone not having better battery life than the LCD phone in reality :) next gen samoled will do that for sure...

posted on 17 Oct 2010, 02:43

14. Jimmy Tappa (unregistered)

Ha..ha...ha... It's an open secret that Apple doesn't produce their retina Display by themselves, but only reallying from the Asian company LG. I don't know why LG don't produce the retina display for themselves but trying to help the bagger Apple @Jobs (who like to sue their competitor for their survivor).

posted on 24 Oct 2010, 18:21

15. RobM (unregistered)

Apple would have used samoled if the manufacturing capacity had made it available. Samsung owns the Super AMOLED market!!

posted on 25 Oct 2010, 16:27

16. 530gemini (Posts: 2198; Member since: 09 Sep 2010)

To Jimmy. LG does not utilize their own retina display because their devices do not have the capable OS to support it. You obviously do not know how screen resolution and OS work.

posted on 28 Nov 2010, 11:16

18. eleutherius (unregistered)

good job.. iphone most use white color on safari,sms,contact..and use it every minute..n can make lose b3 if use SAMOLED.. but i wan suggest to apple..to make iphone 4g n do black color for all things on iphone include safari n use SAMOLED+retina display(960x640)...n can make iphone thinner n save b3 too n good for gaming...plz do 4 ur apple fanboy like me..

posted on 09 Jul 2011, 20:18

19. Roenie (unregistered)

IPS all the way!

Reasons I MUCH prefer IPS on my smartphones:

-Number one: (Super) AMOLED uses PenTile. Oh God. If you understand the tech, this makes it clear that Super AMOLED *PLUS* (such as used in the Samsung Galaxy S2) the only AMOLED type display worth having.

-Color reproduction. IPS panels are known for it. That's why photographers and people in the graphics / publishing business use them.

-Oversaturated OLED due to lack of color managed OS/apps is awful. The web and everything else that is not color managed, assumes you have a "standard" gamut, not 138%. My PC monitor is wide gamut (not as wide as 138 though) and it already has that problem. (Ironically, it's an IPS panel). Colors are natural in photoshop, but reds are wayyyyy too strong on websites and everything else that's not photoshop/color managed. This effect is much stronger on a 138% gamut - no thank you. Especially now that smartphones have decent cameras, I want to see the photo as it really is. (As it would look in photoshop on my PC).

-The web is mostly white, as mentioned above.

-Viewing angles of IPS panels are great to begin with, they don't need to be any better... view angle is a big selling point of IPS panels, always has been.

posted on 25 Aug 2011, 06:08

20. Mike (unregistered)

I really liked this article. Many articles on the net seem to just want to be marketing driven to show how superior the super amoled screens are. I think what it boils down to is how you intend to use your phone. If you are more of a gamer and will be using all kinds of fun apps then amoled is the way to go. If however you are a more productivity oriented user such as myself this article definately reaffirms why I like the LCD display so much better and now I know that my power consumption on LCD is actually better than amoled (Who knew?).

As a photographer who has printed out 10's of thousands of photos I can tell you with poor LCD displays I've had trouble with photos being under saturated on the screen and printouts coming out more saturated. However wide gamut LED screens are a nightmare with over-saturation and poor colour reproduction compared to a good quality LCD monitor.

posted on 04 May 2012, 03:13

21. syampillai (Posts: 1; Member since: 04 May 2012)

Very informative and well written.
Nowadays, we see very few unbiased articles on the net.

posted on 10 Feb 2013, 10:15

22. jessedegenerate (Posts: 4; Member since: 10 Feb 2013)

this post isn't close to factually correct, nearly. IPS displays have brighter nits consistently, better day time performance, not to mention, more power efficient, than if your OLED did nothing but display black.

I feel bad for anyone who thought they learned something from this post, because the author is a f**king idiot.

my phone history goes 4s/gnex/gs3/ip5. I can't believe people are here telling him how honest he is. Disgusting.

posted on 10 Feb 2013, 10:18

23. jessedegenerate (Posts: 4; Member since: 10 Feb 2013)


^ a real talk about OLED, not some fanboy like this article.

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