Smartphones with 18:9 Displays – Can They be Game Changers?

This year, smartphone displays with 18:9 aspect ratio have been empowering new flagship products from top brands such as LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics. Apple is also expected to adopt this new format display in its upcoming iPhone 8 models.

Sony, Google, top Chinese brands and many others are expected to launch new models with this format in the second half of 2017. Can 18:9 smartphone displays be game changers by opening up new opportunities?

LG Display Introduced QHD Plus 18:9 format TFT LCD Smartphone Display

LG Display introduced its 5.7@ QHD Plus (1440×2880) IPS LCD display with 18:9 or (2: 1) format in January 2017. It empowered LG Electronics’ G6 flagship product, providing a bigger display and more immersive viewing. The unique aspect ratio is also optimized for multitasking using dual screen functions. LG Display used its own in-cell-touch technology to have a slimmer module (without cover glass), offering a reduced bezel width, increased transmittance (by 10%) to improve outdoor visibility and reduced power consumption (by 30%). It helped LG to create a thinner and lighter smartphone by eliminating the touch cover glass. The LG G6 product was also Dolby Vision/HDR 10 compliant.

However, this was the first time smartphone market saw this new unique format and it was not clear if others would follow the trend.

LG G6 smartphone

Samsung Launched an 18.5:9 Aspect Ratio Super AMOLED Infinity Display

In March 2017, Samsung Electronics introduced the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus products, which included Samsung Display’s Super AMOLED flexible 5.8″ and 6.2″ display each with 2960 x 1440 pixel resolution and 18.5:9 aspect ratio. Products received rave reviews for the AMOLED display performance and bezel free infinity displays and the mmersive experience they delivered. The unique aspect ratio of the display enabled an expanded display size without requiring a larger device. The Galaxy S8 screen was designated as a Mobile HDR Premium product. HDR (High Dynamic Ratio) is gaining higher importance for TV and video viewing by offering better display performance. Next generation products are bringing HDR to mobile smartphone displays.

The new format offers increased effective display area, allowing better multitasking and video viewing

Samsung Galaxy S8 with AMOLED

The new format enables an increase in effective display area without increasing the overall physical size of the device. It can show more content from webpages, and more information in the case of email or text. The 18:9 aspect ratio display panel is twice as long as its width (2:1). Users can have two identical squares side by side using two applications simultaneously via Android’s multitasking functionality. Currently, there is not enough content that is optimised in 18:9 formats. Most of videos in the current market are in 16:9 format and applications need to be optimized for the new format. Netflix and Amazon have started filming some of their well-known series in this format, along with movie studios. Google has also asked developers to optimize applications in the 18:9 formats.

Apple, Google, Sony and Top Chinese Brands Expected to Adopt Similar Aspect Ratio

Many have speculated that Apple will adopt AMOLED flexible display with a similar aspect ratio to Samsung. Top Chinese brands such as Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and others are expected to roll out new models with 18:9 aspect ratio formats in 2H 2017. There has been a lot of speculation about Google and Sony following the same trends with their products. Some brands will announce their new models at IFA 2017.

JDI Starting Mass production of 18:9 LTPS Display

JDI announced in June 2017, that it has started mass production of LTPS smartphone display in 18:9 aspect ratio and that the displays has a slim bezel design on all four display sides. This was achieved by adopting a new high density wiring layout and new processing module assembly technology. According to the company, this newly designed LCD module structure will allow smartphone device to be nearly the same as the display size contributing to new smartphone design. JDI also added its Pixel Eyes technology to the display, enabling thinner borders and deeper black levels.

JDI 18 9 LCD

Suppliers Ramping up a-Si TFT-LCD 18:9 Display Panels

With increasing demand for OLED smartphone displays and increased production of LTPS displays, a-Si TFT display demand has been going down. Few brands such as Samsung and Apple will be able to get enough supply of OLED panels for new 18:9 models. Other brands have to consider LCD displays for 18:9 products. Even though most of the announcements for new 18:9 products are flagship high end models, some suppliers are also planning to introduce them for their mid-range products. This has given an opportunity to a-Si suppliers to offer display panels in new formats, increasing demand for that technology. Many Taiwanese and Chinese a-Si display suppliers are starting to ramp up production..

Smartphones with 18:9 display, Can They be a Game Changer?

Smartphone demand growth rate has slowed down in recent quarters. The new format display has several advantages that may help smartphone market growth.

  • Provides larger display area for the same diagonal screen size compared to 16:9.
  • Offers better design options and flexibility to smartphone suppliers with long slim design and slim or no bezel
  • Enables thinner, lighter, slimmer, taller form factor with higher resolutions and higher performance display
  • Can offer differentiated products with unique aspect ratio to spur demand
  • Supported by wide range of display technologies (AMOLED flexible and rigid display, LTPS and a-Si TFT LCD display) enabling both high-end and mid-range products.
  • New format display already in production at Samsung Display, LG Display and JDI.
  • LCD suppliers from Taiwan (Innolux, AUO, CPT, and Hannstar) and China (BOE and Tianma) are ramping up production in 2H 2017.
  • Smartphone suppliers (LG Electronics and Samsung) have already adopted this format in their flagship products. Apple, Sony, Google, and top China brands (Huawei, Oppo, Vivo, Xiaomi and others) are expected to join in 2H 2017.

With increased supply, new model introductions at different price levels, the 18:9 aspect ratio display can drive demand opening up new opportunities for the display and smartphone industry. – Sweta Dash

Sweta Dash is the founding president of Dash-Insights, a market research and consulting company specializing in the display industry. For more information, contact [email protected] or visit