Now OLED is the big goal. The technology has been included on
top-end smartphones for years, including almost all of Samsung
Electronics Co.’s high-end phones. While LCDs rely on a backlight
panel, OLED pixels can glow on their own, resulting in thinner
displays, better battery life and improved contrast. OLED screens
can also be made on flexible plastic, allowing for a wider variety
of shapes and applications.
“OLEDs aren’t just for flat areas, but can be used on edges, so
smartphone makers will challenge themselves by building displays
with new shapes,” Tsugami said. “These qualities in OLED will give
it an advantage.”
The machines that build OLED screens are almost all made by Canon
Tokki, which was founded by the current CEO’s father in 1967
(tokki means “special equipment” in Japanese). The company
doesn’t disclose production details and earnings figures. Its
current annual output capacity is less than 10 units, according to two
people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified
because the information is confidential.
To call Canon Tokki’s product a machine is something of an
understatement. Each one is a vacuum production line 100 meters
(328 feet) long. Glass panels, roughly the size of a large TV
screen, are propelled by robotic arms through several chambers.
Red, green and blue pixels are deposited on the surface by
evaporating organic materials.
I see the appeal from Apple’s perspective in terms of OLED displays being thinner and flexible, but the thing about this story that has never sat right with me is that OLED displays reproduce colors poorly. Colors look terrible on my Google Pixel, and I don’t think they look good on Apple Watch, either. I’d hate to see a Pixel-caliber display on an iPhone.