OLED – or Organic Light Emitting Diode – shouldn’t be confused with the LED TVs that are all over the market at the moment. Those TVs use LED backlighting to illuminate an LCD panel. OLED, on the other hand, uses LEDs which illuminate themselves thanks to a film of organic compounds that react to electric impulses.
What that means is that each pixel is an LED which can not only switch itself on or off depending on the picture, but also display a huge gamut of colours. Plus, because there’s no need for any backlighting, the screens can be super thin – we’re talking fractions of a millimetre here.
One of the side benefits of this super-thin technology is that it opens the door for all kinds of varied uses, like flexible screens. TVs that can be wrapped around a corner, or placed on a slightly curved wall. Sure, this isn’t something we can expect to buy in the next five years, but tiny flexible prototypes are popping up everywhere.
Of course, the technology isn’t without its flaws, otherwise we’d all be watching TV on huge paper thin OLED screens. For a start, there’s a question about how long the organic compounds that create OLED will actually last. Blue OLED reportedly only last about 14,000 hours, which is a meagre five years of viewing at eight hours a day.
The other big problem is cost. To date, only Sony has released an OLED TV for sale – and at 11 inches, it was far from being loungeroom capable. Especially considering it cost $7000 at launch in Australia. However, both Samsung and Sony have shown off larger prototypes, with screens up to 40 inches.
Next year looks liek it’s gearing up to be the start of the OLED revolution. It’ll probably take a few years before we start seeing screen sizes worth mentioning at prices worth opening our wallets for, but there’s no doubt that OLED will be the next TV technology for consumers to fall in love with.
History of TV is Giz AU’s month-long look back at the development of the world-changing medium and its influence on our daily lives.