Apple’s foldable iPhone could use a hybrid OLED panel in the future, with Apple focusing on avoiding the creases seen on some foldable smartphones. The key factor for devices like Apple’s rumored “iPhone Fold,” the potential foldable iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Fold series is that they have or will get foldable displays. However, this feature could introduce a long-standing problem with folding screen devices that could ruin the look of the device.
The highly flexible display may show small wrinkles when folded. According to The Elec’s sources, Apple is working to avoid this by asking display suppliers LG and Samsung to develop hybrid OLED panels.
Typical rigid OLED panels use glass as the substrate, which is usually quite non-ductile, while flexible OLED panels tend to use a plastic substrate, which is also wrapped for added protection.
A hybrid panel will use both glass and plastic as the OLED panel, and it also uses a thin-film encapsulation method.
Another part of the problem is in production, as the polyimide varnish is placed on the glass substrate and the glass is later removed with a laser to form a plastic layer. This plastic layer may be deformed by the heat of the laser, resulting in wrinkles.
In response to Apple’s urging, Samsung Display and LG are working on an ultra-thin glass substrate that could be used for hybrid OLED panels. The substrate would be 2 mm thin, rather than the typical 5 mm, making it easier to bend.
Because these new materials are in development and have not yet reached the stage of commercialization, this display technology may not reach Apple’s supply chain for several years. As for what it could be used for, one source said the wrinkles aren’t noticeable on the smaller display, but they are on the larger version, making the hybrid OLED panel more suitable for the foldable iPad.
This hybrid approach isn’t the only way Apple is trying to solve the foldable display problem. In May, it was reported that Apple was keen on an OLED panel that was thinner because it did not require a polarizing layer.