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LCD Still Rules Handset Displays
Posted: 05-Jan-2009 [Source: ABI Research]

[ABI Research looks at alternatives to LCD displays but notes the cost factor is inhibiting uptake of alternatives including OLEDs, Qualcomm's "mirasol" display, and the E-Ink display.]

New York -- In the land of mobile phone displays LCD is still king. However a number of new and not-so-new display technologies are vying for small slices of this vast realm. A new Research Brief from ABI Research examines the strengths and weaknesses of the leading contenders.

Because LCD is a mature technology, it has a cost advantage that ensures its future as the primary display technology for some time to come. But while LCD displays have improved greatly over the years, their performance still falls short in a number of key areas such as power consumption and readability in bright light conditions, which is where new technologies look to capitalize.

“Of the challengers,” says research director Kevin Burden, “Organic Light-Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) are among leading contenders because of the maturity of their development and their use in other devices, such as televisions, which will strengthen their supply chain

Qualcomm’s micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS)-based “mirasol” display, in contrast, is finding its first role in secondary screens found on clamshell handsets. In 2009 Qualcomm will open a dedicated mirasol display factory in Taiwan which is a major step towards ramping up its supply chain.

E-Ink, the “electronic paper” display in Amazon’s Kindle, is also targeting the handset market. Though it is physically robust and boasts very low power consumption, E-Ink’s current lack of color handling and low refresh rate may limit its immediate appeal, but also has opportunity as a phone’s secondary display.

However all these displays face one big hurdle: they cost more than LCD displays. The enormous volumes in the mobile phone market means that even a differential of a few cents can make the difference between adoption and rejection. Over time, though, prices will fall and as Burden notes, “It’s a long road ahead for these new display companies, but even a niche in the handset market could prove very profitable indeed.”

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