What is AMOLED?

Mike Howells

AMOLED is the commonly used acronym for the electronic display technology known as Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode. AMOLED displays build on organic light-emitting diode (OLED) passive-matrix technology to produce a bright display that does not require a backlight, and consumes extremely low levels of power. As of spring 2010, AMOLED remains a very new technology. It is expected, however, to become the display of choice for anything from cellular phones to widescreen televisions, as increased production continues to improve the product and drive down its cost.

AMOLED is expected to become a display of choice for items ranging from cell phones to widescreen televisions.
AMOLED is expected to become a display of choice for items ranging from cell phones to widescreen televisions.

Since it is an advancement of OLED technology, AMOLED features a great deal of the same characteristics as its predecessor. In fact, the similarities far outnumber the differences. OLED, at its core, is a simple light-emitting diode whose luminescence is provided by a film made of organic components, as opposed to traditional inorganic materials. By running an electric current through the electrodes in an OLED, it can emit light usable in a variety of devices, from flashlights to computers.

In televisions and other such applications that require a dynamic, fast-changing display, OLEDs and AMOLEDs are superior to traditional liquid crystal displays (LCDs) in that they do not require a backlight to provide brightness. This means they can be much thinner in form, and can display much truer blacks, without the distracting grey hues that many LCD displays feature. In addition, OLED-based displays have a faster response time than comparable LCDs, meaning they can better keep up with fast-moving content.

The main downside of OLED is that it requires a fairly high, continuous current running through the electrodes. Generally, the more white being displayed, the more power a passive-matrix OLED needs. This is particularly troublesome in mobile devices, like cellular phones, which run on battery power.

AMOLED displays get around this deficiency by incorporating an array of what are known as thin film transistor (TFTs). The TFTs on an AMOLED display act as a series of switches, controlling the flow of electricity in an on-demand fashion, as opposed to the always-on state required by OLED. Though lighter colors still draw more power, devices using an AMOLED rather than OLED display will have significantly lower power demands and longer overall battery life.

The main disadvantages to AMOLED are fragility and brightness. Being organic, the materials within all OLEDs are prone to degradation, and are particularly susceptible to moisture damage. In addition, AMOLEDs are currently not able to equal the brightness of traditional LCD displays when used in direct sunlight. Both these issues, however, are considered, in the industry, to be solvable issues of the technology's newness.

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