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What is OLED? The Complete Guide to Display Technology

Wondering what an OLED display is? You’ve come to the right place – we’ve got all the details on why OLED screens are better than alternatives.

OLED and AMOLED displays took over the phone market in 2021, appearing on flagships from companies like Apple, Samsung, Google, Huawei and others.

Below, we’ll explain what an OLED display is, what makes it better than the alternatives, and share a list of some of the best phones you can buy that use OLED technology.

What is OLED Display?

The term OLED is actually an acronym and means organic LED… For those who don’t know, light emitting diodes are just a light source and they are widely used in electronics.

But OLED is different due to organic part. An organic diode has a thin film of organic compound that emits light when you run an electric current through it.

Therefore, manufacturers take this organic semiconductor material and place it between two electrodes that provide current. Usually one of these electrodes is transparent, so the emitted light can come out – and you can see it.

These organic diodes – OLEDs, so to speak – are being used en masse to create digital displays on a wide range of products, from small wearable devices and smartphones to huge sluggish TVs.

What makes OLED so good?

Many smartphones and TVs use a type of display called LCD, which means liquid crystal display. These liquid crystals do not emit light directly; instead, you shine through them to create light. These crystals make up the pixels on your screen and are illuminated by a huge backlight on the back (or around the edges) of your phone or TV.

But the key benefit of OLEDs is that organic diodes emit their own light. This means they don’t need a backlight at all – just an electric current.

Google Pixel 5

Longer battery life

The first benefit that this gives is that you don’t need to turn on the backlight. This is great because the backlight is very power hungry due to the fact that it must always be on to illuminate the display.

In contrast, OLED can illuminate individual pixels as needed and to varying degrees. This is why battery life can be dramatically increased on smartphones with OLED screens.

Thinner phones

In addition, the fact that you are ditching the backlight also means that the entire display module in your phone may be thinner. This, in turn, means your phone can get thinner. Alternatively, phone manufacturers can make smarter decisions like adding a little extra capacity at the expense of space – but who needs common sense anyway?

Better contrast

True blacks cannot be displayed on LCD screens. This is because the backlight is always on, which means there is always some kind of light. And since some displays cannot control lighting in certain areas of the screen, it is difficult to fully control the display brightness.

With OLED screens, the advantage is clear. If an OLED screen should show a black area, your phone might just turn off certain pixels. This means that you will have zero light, which will be almost as black as it gets.

Philips 65OLED + 935
Philips 65OLED + 935

More expensive

You are probably wondering why the hell is anyone still using LCDs. Price, mostly.

Manufacturing OLED panels has historically been much more expensive than manufacturing LCD screens. Yields were low and few could produce them efficiently.

The good news is that the gap has narrowed significantly and OLED screens for TVs and smartphones are dropping rapidly in value.

Which phones have OLED displays?

When we first published this guide, there weren’t many displays on OLED phones. However, there is much more choice on the market these days.

Samsung had the crown for a while. Analysts at UBI Research had expected the company to hold approximately 89% of the AMOLED (Active Matrix OLED) display market in 2017. Samsung’s dominance of phone-sized OLED panels also means the Korean firm has been able to offer AMOLED screens on its smartphones. years ahead of companies like Apple that have stuck with less impressive alternative displays in the past.

Fortunately, things have changed over the years, and now there are many options if you want an OLED screen.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Here are a few recent phones that have them:

In fact, all of the phones in our guide to the best smartphones will feature OLED displays in 2021.

Which smartphone you’ve used had the best screen? Let us know via Facebook or Twitter

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