Hopes Brighten for PMOLED in the Wearables Market

By Mike PecoraroMarch 25, 2016

The world of OLED is widening its presence in high-powered display applications that are being used in automotive infotainment, smartphones, smartwatches and other wearable devices.

A structural makeup consisting of thin flexible organic electroluminescent sheets that glow naturally when electricity is applied through them allows Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) to shed its weight and battery-consumption by eliminating the need for an external back-light to function. These are some of the reasons why the considerably thinner, lighter, and energy-efficient OLED is smoking its predecessor, LCD, out of the competition.

While OLED technology for the consumer market today is certainly better than LCD, there’s still a lot of room for improvement in the future as far as power efficiency of OLEDs is concerned. Many ongoing efforts are trying to identify the best type of OLED—PMOLED, AMOLED, or hybrid—for devices of the future, including wearables. For example, WPGA’s valued partner, WiseChip Semiconductor Inc.—the world's 2nd largest PMOLED—is one of the first companies to sense opportunities in PMOLED technology for wearables.

Why OLED Makes Sense for Wearables

Ultra-compact devices like wearables demand slim, lightweight displays that are power-efficient as well. OLED fits the bill perfectly and is fast turning out to be the most preferred choice for the wearables industry.

Although, other technologies such as LCD and e-ink are still widely used, some of the major players in the wearables market—including Samsung, Oculus Rift, FitBit, HTC, Motorola, and LG—have started using OLED displays in their products. In fact, according to industry experts, OLED could soon become a standard smartwatch feature.

Types of OLED

Usually differentiated by the driving electronics, OLED can be either Passive Matrix (PM) or Active Matrix (AM). With no restrictions on display size or resolution, the Active Matrix OLED, driven by TFT, has an embedded storage capacitor that makes it ideal for large displays in smartphones, mobile video players, digital cameras and LED TV sets.

Controlling each row (or line) in the display one at a time, the Passive Matrix OLED (PMOLED) utilizes a simple control scheme. Since it doesn’t come with a storage capacitor, additional voltage is required to power up the pixels in each line to make the display vivid. Easy to assemble, the cost effective PMOLED is an excellent fit for gadgets with small displays.

In recent times, a lot of R&D is being organized by technology giants to narrow the gap between AMOLED and PMOLED for cost effective and energy efficient larger displays.

WiseChip Sees Fast Growth in PMOLED Technology for Wearables

Even though many companies are keenly monitoring the potentials OLED has in store for the consumer wearables market, the quickest to react on the emerging market trend has been WiseChip.

According to an industry survey published by IHS DisplaySearch, the PMOLED market will report a staggering rise in numbers from 53.5 million units to 70 million units, most of its growth coming from innovative smart wearable devices like the smartwatch. WiseChip—the company that plans to launch 5mm flex-displays by 2017—is expected to benefit largely from the soaring numbers, reaching its peak in 2016.