Are our Smartphones getting Smarter?

In the modernized world, almost everyone immerses themselves in the wonders of technology, making use of the increasing advancement of cell phone development, whether they are tweeting about an awesome video, or browsing the internet for presents to buy for the upcoming holidays. A somewhat vexing issue arises from lackluster battery life, which at times can seem mediocre considering how cutting-edge our phones have become. As technology becomes increasingly universal and mobile, the amount of usage a fully charged battery is able to provide is a key concern.  Luckily, recent research into organic LED displays have in turn generated a more energy efficient alternative.

LCDs

Ordinary LCDs (liquid-crystal display), which are in virtually every monitor and laptop, work by choosing to block areas of the backlight to create images that audiences see.  A simple LCD panel can be created with layers of polarized glass, nematic liquid crystals, polarizing film and polymers, as seen in the image below.  

LCD screens are created by stacking layers of different materials atop one another.  Together, it creates a displayed image.

However, for every LCD panel, there must be an external light source since they emit no light on their own.  As a source of light, LCDs commonly utilize LEDs (light-emitting diodes) or built in fluorescent tubes.  However, the light is not always evenly distributed throughout the display.  This results in uneven backlighting and can be witnessed when the monitor displays a black image.  Its overall design limits the viewing angle of the monitor which results in variations in color saturation, contrast and brightness.  Additional characteristics of LCDs can be found described by VarTech Systems Inc here.

OLEDs

How is an OLED different from an LED?  As their name suggests, OLEDs (organic light emitting diodes) is an LED composed of organic material that emit light in response to an electric current.  They do not require an external light source, since they are able to produce their own light.  Instead of LCD backlights dissipating light across several layers of fragile layers of film and glass, an OLED screen only requires a minimum of five basic thin layers: the cathode electrode, anode electrode, emissive and conductive layers, and transparent material.  Additionally, the plastic, organic layers of an OLED panel are thinner, lighter and more flexible than the crystalline coats in a LCD.  While this may seem like a cosmetic superficiality, a more flexible display of plastic allows for a more malleable support than the hard glass of their counterparts.

The layers that make up a basic OLED.  It requires less materials and layers than a traditional LCD.

The OLED display is generated from the cathode and anode layers.  The anode layer expels electrons through the conductive and emissive layers while the cathode applies the electrons through the layers.

This interchanging process of electron transfer happens when a current passes through the OLED screen.  This produces an electric signal in the conductive/emissive layers that gets sent through the substrate, which is the layer that the user sees the eye-popping image through.  The organic product also holds the upper hand in light emissions; due to the OLED’s thin layers, which are far skinnier than the inorganic crystal layers of an LED, the conductive and emissive layers of an OLED can be multi-layered, thus giving off more light and better color. As one might realize, this is an extremely efficient process.  Instead of having a row of energy consuming LCDs spreading light, only a small current would be applied through all the layers of the OLED screen.

A visual representation of the principle behind the luminescence of an OLED.Benefits

The underlying principle behind OLEDs makes them drastically different than LCDs.  These differences are usually benefits that make OLEDs a target technology for mobile devices such as cell phones.  Unlike LCDs, OLEDs emit their own light, eliminating the need for a backlight.  This results in a lower energy consumption, since a significant amount of energy within LCDs goes towards backlighting.  The lower energy consumption of an OLED panel makes them an attractive screen for use in mobile devices.  Cell phones that adopt the OLED display would therefore be one step closer to a longer battery life, since the outdated LCD screens will no longer be sucking the electricity from the cell phone.

In addition to their energy efficiency, the structure of the OLED display poses many advantages over LCD screens.  An OLED panel does not require any glass casing, unlike an LCD.  The glass casing in an LCD absorbs some of the light and reduces it efficiency.  The layers of an OLED, which are plastic and organic allow it to be much thinner, lighter, and more flexible than a traditional LCD screen.  This leads to a variety of features and benefits ideal for use in cell phones. It would allow for virtually indestructible and even curved phones to be created. In fact, Samsung has already announced the first OLED curved phone.

Before any company makes a significant investment in research and development, it carefully weighs the costs and potential benefits.  Yes, OLED technology has been developed enough for use in a smartphone– but will it be commercially viable and attractive to customers? In fact, it would be false to suggest that merely because something bends and is lighter will make it a commercial success.  Samsung’s risky foray into the market by creating an OLED sector will determine the future for OLEDs in the near future.  Nevertheless, it is these risks that has the potential to make Samsung a leader in the next generation of smartphones.  As Steve Jobs once said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

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