OLED is having a moment – and not just with Nintendo Switch

(Image credit: LG)

Long live the OLED panel. That’s the sentiment expressed by analysts at DSCC, who have forecast a massive uptick in the usage of OLED panels in a host of consumer devices this year.

DSCC’s quarterly report raises the global revenue forecast in 2021 to $42.5 billion (around £30 billion / AU$57 billion), up 9% from its previous forecast.

The company cites a host of factors for this increase, including “increased OLED smartphone volumes” as well as more OLED panels being used in laptops. Samsung alone is expected to rake in $1bn in OLED panel revenue before 2021 is out.

These numbers only get bigger in the coming years, too. DSCC predicts a 43% increase between 2021 and 2025, with only more smartphones, tablets and laptops set to use the panel technology going forward. Monitors are expected to see the biggest uptick, though, with a 238% increase expected between now and 2025 as Samsung Display and LG Display target the OLED monitor market more aggressively.

That’s not to mention the newly-announced Nintendo Switch OLED, a gaming console with an inlaid 7-inch OLED screen replacing the LCD display of prior models, which could up-end prediction models in the years ahead.

OLED, OLED everywhere

So why has OLED captured the imaginations of manufacturers and consumers around the world?

Despite the thrall that LCD screens still have across much of the market – being generally cheaper and easier to produce – OLED panels are becoming more accessible, with ramped-up production lines allowing for lower manufacturing costs per unit. LG Display finally opened a new factory last year in Guangzhou, China, which should help it to almost double OLED TV output in 2021.

OLED panels also make for far slimmer devices on the whole, given OLED pixels can emit their own light and don’t require an additional backlight behind the panel to make images visible. 

For a world of luxury smartphones that need to fit into the average pocket or handbag, or smartwatches that need to fit comfortably on the wrist, slim design is crucial – and there are certainly aesthetic and space-saving benefits for laptops, monitors and TVs in the home.

OLED panels may now be reaching a point of saturation, though. While growth is ongoing, it’s also slowing, with DSCC forecasting a lower year-on-year growth for the next two or three years, with a hesitant uptick expected by 2025. But, of course, if OLED demand starts to stall, it’ll likely only be because Mini LED and Micro LED challengers are starting to take hold.

Henry St Leger

Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.