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The future of displays: OLED is the technology to beat, but LCD will continue to dominate

Jon L. Jacobi | Sept. 23, 2015
Those are two of the trends we gleaned from IHS DisplaySearch's annual flat-panel display conference, which took place last week.

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According to another presentation, the average size of TVs shipped and sold grows by an inch each year. The presentation concerning medium to small displays (cell phones, wearables, and tablets) also predicted a market trend towards larger cell phones: Up to seven inches, at which point fitting into any sort of pocket become problematic. To avoid competition with phablets, tablet sizes will also continue to increase. That’s two other biggers for you. Now why on earth did I go from an iPad to an iPad mini?

Given the tidal nature of consumer taste, who knows if that trend will last. Whatever size cell phones settle at, the small and medium (up to about 10 inches, or tablet territory) display market is the major growth area for the industry.

Bendable displays—still out there

There’s still talk of flexible AMOLED (Active Matrix OLED) displays, though it remains in most users’ futures due to high production costs. Samsung is shaving a silly little millimeter from the glass in its phones, which if nothing else, serves to point out that thinner is still a trend. 

Corning—the glass company that manufactures everything from oven-safe cookware to fiber-optic cable, Gorilla glass overlays for touchscreens, and the raw materials for flat-panel substrates—was on hand with a new glass product that promises to enable higher display resolutions (100 more pixels per inch) by reducing total pitch variation. As this Corning video explains, glass inevitably moves as its subjected to high temperatures during the display-manufacturing process. Reducing total pitch variation makes that movement more predictable.

Fun fact. To meet demand for that one inch that TV displays are growing each year, Corning has to build another fabrication plant.

Haptic-ness

In a presentation on wearable technology, the Society of Information Display’s Sri Peruvemba asserted that the consumer market will demand higher-quality touchscreens that can be used when wet or with gloves. That’s not new technology, it’s simply more expensive and limited to industrial applications at the moment. Peruvemba also called for a standard Haptic (mechanical feedback, e.g. vibrations) language, which is a great idea—if we can get everyone to agree on a single alphabet.

Smaller haptic generators are on the way—take apart the Apple watch and a huge portion of it is devoted to the vibrating mechanism. So yes, an Apple Watch mini is probably in the works.

Wrap-up

The price of large flat panels has likely plateaued for the time being. After the staggering price drops of the last year or so, manufacturers can barely sustain the thin profit margins on their mass-market offerings. If you can afford to play at the higher end—something like the $10,000 TX-65CZ950 OLED model Panasonic unveiled at IFA—you’ll probably be subsidizing the rest of us.

You don’t have to be Nostradamus to predict the other basic flat panel industry trends. If consumers want it, vendors will try to provide it. To reiterate: bigger, better, brighter, faster, cheaper, and slimmer.

 

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