OLED Display’s Impact on Battery Life for Consumer Tech Devices 

Contributed Commentary by Jacky Qiu, OTI Lumionics 

January 6, 2023 | Consumers are always looking for the latest and greatest electronics to improve their lives. Overall, there is a shift to OLED displays in devices such as monitors, tablets, laptops, TVs and smartphones. There have been an estimated 554 million smartphone units built this year with OLED screens. Building devices with these screens became standard practice some time ago. In fact, any iPhone 12 and newer has an OLED screen, apart from the iPhone SE.

OLED displays are desired for their impeccable color, image quality and thin, flexible screen capabilities. For example, gaming monitors become curved to give an immersive experience and clear color. The same notion can be applied to smartphones and laptops. We’re seeing foldable phones, rollable TVs, even advertising billboards and more. In many ways, OLEDs give consumers the next-generation technology they are looking for.

With great advancements, naturally there are downsides. Currently, OLEDs experience shortcomings in power consumption for displays. Before diving into them, we must first understand how an OLED display works.

In the simplest terms, OLED is a flat light-emitting technology. Because they are an emissive display, they do not require backlighting (which traditional LCDs do). OLEDs use self-illuminating pixels; because of this and because they do not require backlighting, OLEDs do not consume as much power as LCDs. They are optimized for what the industry calls “Perfect Black.” They can be more energy efficient when displaying darker images or using low levels of brightness.
Because OLEDs prefer darker images, they are less efficient at displaying white images. However, the white images an OLED can display are of higher quality and brightness, but in doing so, this requires more energy consumption than LCD. In the marketplace, for example, a laptop with an OLED display using high-white content like typical webpage browsing, Microsoft Office work, and more, will typically have a six-to-seven-hour battery life whereas a traditional LCD display will have a 10-to-11-hour battery life. This is something for consumers to consider when purchasing a new device.

A rare use case where an OLED screen has a better battery life than its counterpart is the Nintendo Switch OLED. Experts tested the original Nintendo gaming system and its new OLED console and found that the Nintendo Switch OLED had a battery life of five hours, beating its competitor by just twenty minutes. They suggest this is because the OLED offers better contrast due to deeper blacks and richer colors.

Leading manufacturers do want to bring quality OLED displays to larger forms such as tablets, laptops, monitors and TVs; however, should they decide to do this, they will need to make a trade-off: either increase the battery size, making devices heavier, which isn’t preferable; or implement efficient OLED displays improvements.

Experts are developing new improvements to solve this problem. They suggest a high-efficiency blue OLED will minimize the battery drainage. Blue phosphorescent OLEDs lead to higher efficiency with lower power consumption. The use of this gives higher brightness at the same power level. Achieving a high-efficiency blue will reduce other losses in the OLED displays and thus improve overall performance. For example, Universal Display Corporation’s phosphorescent blue is expected to be commercialized in 2024, so battery life may be improved sooner rather than later. When these achievements come to fruition, laptops, phones and tablets won’t require such heavy battery packs.

With scientists working to bring the best quality display that also gives us the best battery life and usage to our devices, the future is literally bright for our technology. Until then, to preserve battery life in an OLED device, it is suggested to keep it in a dark or dimly lit environment to help avoid needing a bright backlight, setting sleep modes on for monitors or TVs, or adjusting the contract or brightness settings on a smartphone.

Jacky Qiu, SVP and Co-founder of OTI Lumionics, received his M.ASc. degree from the University of Toronto. From 2011 to the present, he is a co-founder and the Senior Vice President at OTI Lumionics, where he engages in research and development, operations, and market development. He can be reached at jacky.qiu@otilumionics.com.