Display Terminology: ‘AMOLED’

I was watching The Verge’s OnePlus 5 review on YouTube, but when Dan Seifert began going through the specs of the display and mentioned the OnePlus 5 having a 5.5-inch ‘AMOLED’ display (around the 1:00 minute mark) I became a little perturbed. I have several pet peeves when it comes to display terminology and this is one of them. Let me explain.

AMOLED. It stands for Active Matrix OLED (OLED stands for Organic Light-Emitting Diode). OLED displays in modern smartphones, tablets, laptops, monitors, TVs, etc. are almost all of the active matrix variety. The other older, less-used technology is passive matrix, but it’s been a long time since I have been exposed to a modern device sporting a PMOLED display.

Let’s use an example from the automotive industry. What would your response be if Car and Driver mentioned that the new 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS features an insane 700-horsepower turbocharged 3.6-liter flat-six fuel-injected engine? (What an engineering marvel, by the way!) Sure, there are engines without fuel injection… are there? Any cars with an engine without fuel injection? Probably not. You’d probably react, “That’s kinda weird. Why mention it’s fuel injected? Are there any modern car engines without fuel injection?” Your reaction would be appropriate since the fuel-injected part of a gasoline engine specification is assumed, and rightly so since almost all modern engines feature fuel injection. You might also start wondering if Porsche made gasoline engines without fuel injection.

Back to ‘AMOLED’. Is AM necessary, or even desirable? Absolutely not; it can be safely assumed when mentioning a modern smartphone features an OLED display that it is an active matrix OLED. Few occasions would warrant pointing out the active matrix-ness of an OLED display: when you’re comparing it to a passive matrix OLED display. And how often does that happen?

So why do knowledgeable technology sites like The Verge continue to mention the active matrix portion of an OLED display? Maybe out of habit. Or not being as anal about terminology as folks like me. Perhaps both. Utter AMOLED to long-time professionals in the display industry and it may sound to some as redundant, or worse; just OLED is, in my humble opinion, more than sufficient.

OnePlus 5 Focus on Dual-Lens Camera

Dan Seifert:

Even with the advantage of being based in Shenzhen, OnePlus still can’t always get the best components other companies might have. After all, both Apple and Samsung make their own processors, and Samsung is one of the leading manufacturers of display technologies in the world. Those in-house display and chip technologies show up in their phones long before they make it anywhere else. (Or in the case of Apple’s chips, they never show up in other companies’ products at all.)

For the OnePlus 5, that meant the company wasn’t able to utilize the tall, edge-to-edge screens that Samsung and LG have pushed this year. “This is something we want to try,” says Lau. “But we don’t currently have the resources or access to those displays.”

So OnePlus zeroed in its efforts on the part it can get: a better camera. The OnePlus 5 features a dual-camera system, a first for the company.

The “tall, edge-to-edge screens that Samsung and LG have pushed this year” are not merely tall and edge-to-edge; it is not just a different form factor. Those screens are the best screens that have been integrated into smartphones; they are even better than some of the best TV screens. These two companies’ smartphone displays are at the top or very near the top in color gamut, color accuracy, contrast, reflectance, brightness, and a plethora of other display metrics. Samsung has OLED, and LG has IPS LCD; Samsung’s OLED is curved, and LG’s IPS LCD is not. Either way you can’t go wrong with their tall, edge-to-edge screens, but the truth is as Seifert wrote: it will be a while before these beautiful displays get into the hands of other brands. The one exception would be Apple with its next iPhone expected to be announced around September with OLED displays that will likely be supplied by both Samsung and LG.

I expect the OnePLus 5 to have a good implementation of a dual-lens camera, especially the camera’s portrait capabilities. Similar in design and in function to the dual-lens iPhone 7 Plus. But the focus on making a better camera is not good enough. The challenge is to make the display as good as the camera. The display has to be just as good at transforming electrons back into photons as the camera is at transforming photons into electrons. For smartphone photography a great display with a so-so camera is just as useless as a so-so display with a great camera. The two go hand in hand. This camera-and-screen one-two punch is one of the many reasons why the Samsung Galaxy S8, LG G6, and the iPhone 7 Plus are considered to be the best smartphones on the market today. The OnePlus 5 launches tomorrow at noon in New York City.

Source: The Verge