The Society for Information Display's Display of the Year Awards committee has selected six award winners that advanced the state of the art of electronic-display products and technology during 2010 in the categories of Display of the Year, Display Component of the Year, and Display Application of the Year. All of this year's winners are either mobile displays or components for mobile displays.
by Jenny Donelan
"SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL" could well be the theme for this year's Display of the Year (DYA) awards. Giant television screens will always draw people's attention, but it was exquisite imagery that you can put in your pocket, or at least in your briefcase, that impressed the 2011 Display of the Year Awards Committee. For example, Apple's Retina technology, used in the iPhone 4, employs 326 ppi to create a truly beautiful display. As an aside, the marketing behind the iPhone has affected the rest of the display industry too, making the general public aware of "pixel density as a meaningful differentiator," as Mark Fihn puts it. Fihn is the author of this month's Display Marketplace feature, "Predicting the Future."
Two other smartphone/mobile-phone technologies being honored this year are based on active-matrix organic light-emitting diodes (AMOLEDs). Samsung Mobile Display's On-Cell Touch AMOLED display elegantly enables devices that are thinner and offer far more light transmission than devices built on prior technology. In the area of applications, Samsung's Super AMOLED technology is the basis of the 4-in. displays used in the company's Galaxy S class of mobile phones, which feature superior color quality and a contrast ratio of 100,000:1.
Moving up a bit in size is the iPad from Apple, honored by the committee in the area of applications. It is not the first tablet computer, but it is definitely the first tablet to merge connectivity, multitouch, and a superior display in a way that captured the public's imagination.
The other two winners this year are E Ink's Triton color imaging technology, which brings color to the reflective, sunlight-readable monochrome e-Readers that have become such a commercial success, and a flexible substrate from the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) that enables the manufacture of flexible displays using the existing TFT infrastructure.
The displays, components, and applications honored this year are varied in terms of their underlying technology – LCD, AMOLED, and electrophoretic – but they all have in common some major advances in both form and function, as well as their portability.
Bob Melcher, the Display of the Year awards chairman, notes that "this year the DYA awards selection was extremely competitive, with several excellent products in contention in each category. The ultimate selection of the six winners demonstrates how innovation continues to drive the display industry."
These products, and the companies that created them, will be honored at a ceremony during the annual SID luncheon, which takes place on Wednesday, May 18, 2011, during Display Week in Los Angeles, California. During the ceremony, the three Gold Award winners will each present a short video on the winning products.
The award-winning displays, components, and applications are described below, based on information supplied by the winning companies.
Display of the Year
This award is granted for a display with novel and outstanding features such as new physical or chemical effects, or a new addressing method.
Gold Award: Apple's iPhone 4 Retina Display
By developing pixels only 78 μm wide, Apple engineers and their technology partners were able to pack four times the number of pixels into the same 3.5-in. (diagonal) screen found on earlier iPhone models. The resulting pixel density of the iPhone 4 Retina display – 326 ppi – makes text and graphics look smooth and continuous at any size. The 640 x 960-pixel display set a new benchmark for mobile-display resolution.
The iPhone 4 Retina display uses technology called mobile in-plane switching (IPS) to achieve a viewing angle superior to that of conventional mobile LCDs, enabling users to hold the iPhone 4 in almost any position they want and still get a high-fidelity image. The consistency of gamma over viewing angles provides an enhanced viewing experience to end users in applications such as gaming and photo-sharing.
The LTPS-TFT backplane design is fully customized, including organic passivation and optimized pixel design for maximum transmittance. Combined with a custom driver IC, this enables high resolution with industry-leading low power consumption.
The brightness of the display is both user-customizable and auto-adjustable, with the latter using ambient light sensing and power-optimized default levels. The full brightness capability ranges up to 500 cd/m2 for readability in bright environments.
Apple and its suppliers developed the advanced IPS compensation polarizer technology to achieve high contrast (800:1) and color consistency at almost all viewing directions. This compensation scheme also enables the high-transmittance pixel required for optimized battery performance. The polarizer design includes a novel sunglasses friendly feature to make the display viewable in any orientation, even through polarizing sunglasses.
The innovation in the iPhone 4 extends beyond the optical performance of the Retina display into mechanical integration as well. Patent-pending features in the color-filter black mask allow for highly accurate alignment to the laminated touch panel and cover glass. The driver IC is ultra-thin with a tiny footprint for enhanced reliability, and the integration of the driver IC and attached flexible printed circuit are optimized for compact product architecture. The backlight architecture is also designed to support the reliability and process demands of the iPhone 4 system.
The iPhone 4 Retina display has native 8-bit color depth, resulting in beautiful images without contouring. It is supported by system-level optimization including pixel pipeline optimizations and software-based color correction.
Working with its technology and manufacturing partners, Apple led the design and development of the iPhone 4 Retina display and set a new benchmark in display resolution, low power consumption, and image quality.
Silver Award: Samsung Mobile Display's On-Cell Touch AMOLED
Samsung Mobile Display developed the revolutionary On-Cell Touch AMOLED (OCTA) display for use in mobile applications. The OCTA display has an integrated touch sensor that eliminates the need for an additional touch-screen overlay (Fig. 1). Until now, touch-capable mobile displays have utilized an input sensor fabricated onto a separate glass substrate, which is then laminated as a separate subassembly onto the display. This extra glass layer has resulted in additional weight and product thickness. Furthermore, the extra sensor-to-display interface layer causes a loss of display luminance and is a source of internal reflections that degrade display performance, especially in high-ambient lighting conditions, such as outdoors.
Fig. 1: The OCTA technology enables a demonstrably thinner touch display.
The OCTA display was developed to meet the ever-increasing performance and industrial design demands of today's modern mobile devices. The touch sensor integrated onto the display glass uses projected-capacitive touch-detection technology to deliver multi-touch input capability with the highest possible sensing performance. Additionally, because AMOLED displays are self-emissive, they do not require the thickness, added weight, and expense of a backlight. As a result of this new design approach, the Samsung OCTA display delivers excellent performance and exceptional quality with a highly accurate and sensitivity-optimized touch input in a module that is less than 2 mm thick. The Samsung OCTA has nearly 100% light transmission and outstanding outdoor visibility due to Samsung's elimination of the extra interface layer. Also, its multi-sensor input capability enables gesture recognition for the most advanced mobile devices.
The OCTA display is expanding into a wide range of mobile applications including smartphones, tablets, premium digital cameras, and even conventional mobile phones. The OCTA is the world's first mass-produced AMOLED with an integrated touch sensor.
The advantages of AMOLEDs include:
Superior Picture Quality. With vivid, more life-like colors, wider viewing angles, and much higher contrast ratios compared to that of conventional mobile screens, AMOLED displays dramatically enhance the mobile viewing experience. AMOLED displays process images up to 1000 times faster than conventional displays such as LCDs. Therefore, AMOLED displays deliver superior moving picture performance and feature a 180° angle of view and contrast ratios greater than 1,000,000:1. In addition, the color gamut of AMOLEDs typically exceeds that of other devices with LCD screens.
Thinner Profile. AMOLED screens are much thinner and lighter than other displays due to their innovative structure and the absence of any backlight. AMOLEDs are enabling designers to make sleeker, lighter, and more appealing mobile products, which are more elegant and convenient to use.
High Power Efficiency. AMOLED screens consume less power than other devices when displaying video images. This provides a critical advantage in portable electronics, allowing mobile devices to last longer for a given battery size.
Display Component of the Year
This award is granted for a novel component that has significantly enhanced the performance of a display. A component is sold as a separate part destined to be incorporated into a display. A component may also include display-enhancing materials and/or parts fabricated with new processes.
Gold Award: E Ink's Triton
Color e-paper displays enabled by E Ink's Triton color imaging technology deliver high-contrast, sunlight-readable, low-power performance designed to further close the divide between paper and electronic displays.
With the E Ink Triton color configuration, a thin color-filter array (CFA) is added in front of the black-and-white display, which is based on E Ink's Pearl electrophoretic technology. The CFA consists of four subpixels – red, green, blue, and white – that are combined to create a full-color pixel. The result is a low-power, direct-sunlight, readable color e-paper display.
The benefits of E Ink Triton include:
Color Enhancement. In addition to 16 levels of monochrome, Triton is capable of displaying thousands of colors. Just like E Ink's monochrome e-paper products, Triton's crisp text and detailed color graphics are fully viewable in direct sunlight.
Improved Speed. E Ink Triton is 20% faster than previous generations of E Ink displays. This expands the e-paper experience and displays more dynamic content for signage, advertising, or browsing the Internet.
Tier 1 Ecosystem. E Ink has partnered with companies such as Epson, Texas Instruments, Marvell, and Freescale Semiconductor to provide a best-in-class ecosystem of supporting electronics products. Its partners are working toward enabling E Ink's newest generation of e-paper displays with technology such as dedicated discrete e-paper controllers and display power-management integrated circuits.
Triton enables color applications markets including e-books, e-newspapers, e-magazines, e-textbooks, and digital signage.
Silver Award: ITRI's Flexible Substrate for displays
The Silver Award was given to the Industrial Technical Research Institute (ITRI) for its novel flexible substrate technology that is compatible with existing TFT infrastructures and processes.
ITRI's Flexible Substrate is an inorganic dominated silica/polyimide (PI) hybrid film in which the silica content can be increased as high as 60 wt.%. The film is suitable for the fabrication of flexible displays in both batch and roll-to-roll processes. [The existence of networks between silica particles in a PI matrix has been confirmed by 3-D tomography (Fig. 2)]. The novel inorganic silica/polyimide (PI) hybrid technology for flexible substrate is a significant step forward in the display field.
Fig. 2: Three-dimensional tomography images of ITRI's Flexible Substrate include (left) a low magnification with a dimension of 508 x 508 x 86.4 nm and (right) a high magnification of 3D image with a dimension of 127 x 127 x 86.4 nm.
For batch-type processes, the flexible substrate is easily prepared by coating a PI solution on glass carriers, followed by fabricating TFT devices on the said substrates. The surface roughness of PI/silica hybrid film as measured by atomic-force microscopy (AFM) is less than 5 nm. It is therefore good enough for the manufacture of flexible displays.
Moreover, the adhesion properties of PI/silica film with silicone oxide, silicone nitride, and ITO are very good without any other primer or surface treatment process needed. The Tg of the PI/silica hybrid film is higher than 400°C due to the inorganic silica dominated phase. Furthermore, the high inorganic content of silica/PI reduces the coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE). The silica content of the film can be increased as high as 60 wt.% while still reaching the desired optical properties.
For the roll-to-roll fabrication process, the ITRI flexible substrate attains a variety of attractive properties, such as low CTE (20 ppm/°C, high transmittance (around 90%); within a wavelength range of 400–700 nm), excellent flexibility, and high Young's modulus (4.3 Gpa). Additionally, a flexible color-filter active-matrix electrophoretic display (AMEPD) and a flexible touch film were made on ITRI's flexible substrate. The novel inorganic dominated silica/PI hybrid technology is a significant step toward the realization of flexible active-matrix displays.
In the future, networks between dominated silica particles could make a true glass-like substrate possible; the challenge of the water and oxygen barrier properties should continue to be studied. A hybrid with other nano-materials and polymers could also increase the barrier properties significantly. ITRI believes that flexible displays will soon become a viable product. (For more information, see the article, "A Flexible Universal Plane for Displays" in the February 2011 issue of Information Display.)
Display Application of the Year
This award is granted for a novel and outstanding application of a display, where the display itself is not necessarily a new device.
Gold Award: Apple's iPad
Apple's original iPad shipped in April 2010. Industry experts were initially unsure how the new tablet computer, which was larger than a smartphone and smaller than a laptop, would be received by consumers, but nearly 15 million sold worldwide that first year (http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2011/01/18results.html). The iPad's mobile in-plane switching (IPS) LCD, combined with a multi-touch user interface and iPad system design (it runs on the same iOS as the iPhone) turned out to mark a new era of tablet computing.
The iPad display provides a superior viewing experience, with a minimized gamma shift over viewing angles by using advanced mobile IPS technology. By working closely with display partners on all technical aspects, Apple has customized the design to achieve a total optimization of display pixel structure, LED, backlight, electrical circuits, and software management to maximize the power efficiency. The iPad is able to achieve 9 hours of battery life for 3G Web surfing and 10 hours for WiFi Web surfing by combining this custom-designed LCD with an innovative product design and power management system – all with an ultra-thin profile.
By leveraging the existing a-Si TFT infra-structure, Apple was able to deliver a product whose impact has been considerable all over the world. The company has said that the iPad revolutionizes the way people interact with computers, changing the way they are used to communicate, consume, and create content, play games, and learn.
Silver Award: Samsung's Galaxy S
In June 2010, Samsung Mobile launched its first-ever premium portfolio of smartphones in the company's 15-year history in the U.S. The vibrant display on each device attracted the attention of both media and consumers and allowed the Galaxy S portfolio to succeed in the smartphone market.
Samsung Galaxy S smartphones provide a premium viewing experience with a brilliant 4-in. display powered by Samsung's Super AMOLED touch-screen technology. Super AMOLED technology design yields thinner displays, delivering some of the thinnest, most responsive full-featured smartphones in the industry. Due to its advances in color reproduction, contrast ratio, response time, and viewing angle, Samsung's innovative display technology makes watching movies, viewing videos, and playing games come to life like never before, even in bright light and outdoor environments.
Samsung's Super AMOLED screen offers improved color reproduction that is 40% higher than other leading displays. That means the user sees an incredibly close match between the color quality on the mobile phone and that of the original content source, whether it be film, video, or digital images. Super AMOLED also delivers a contrast ratio of 100,000:1, which is more than 100 times the quality of other leading displays and the closest comparison to HDTV standards. That means the Galaxy S will show the very brightest whites and the very darkest blacks for unmatched vivid colors and clarity.
In terms of response time, Super AMOLED is 2500 times faster than the leading display standard, clocking in at one-hundredth of a millisecond. A rapid response time means the display refreshes video images faster than ever, blocking "ghost" images, eliminating screen freezing and other video distortion. Additionally, Super AMOLED's full 180¼ viewing angle prevents any blurring or distortion, even while users hold the Galaxy S at eye level.
Samsung Mobile's next-generation technology, Super AMOLED Plus, will bring a new level of viewing experience to the consumer, with a greatly increased subpixel count – 50% more subpixels than the original Super AMOLED. Super AMOLED Plus will complement the mechanics of the human eye to make images look clearer and more detailed than ever before. •