How AMOLED technology works

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It’s no doubt that you’ve heard the words “Super AMOLED” or “AMOLED” before. Not only is it a technology, but the words are oft thrown about in marketing to catch your attention, too. But, many of us don’t know what AMOLED technologies are and how they affect our smartphones. There’s quite a lot too them and a lot happening behind-the-scenes, but we’re going to give you a quick technical overview of how this specific display panel works and how it affects your smartphone.

Join us after the break!

So, what are AMOLED displays?

Most commonly, you probably hear the word Super AMOLED from Samsung and its phones. Super AMOLED specificially is Samsung’s own rendition of the AMOLED panel. It stands for Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode. It’s actually built off of OLED technology, thus the last part of that abbreviation–organic light-emitting diode.

AMOLED is a popular display option among many Android manufacturers. And, each manufacturer usually has its own rendition of the display. For instance, Samsung coins the term Super AMOLED while the now-gone Motorola used to market its own as the Super AMOLED Plus. That in mind, there are many forms and renditions of AMOLED that we’ll touch on in a little bit in order to show you the differences and if one might be better than the other.

To break it down, OLED-Info explains the technical aspect really well:

“The ‘active-matrix’ part refers to the driving electronics, or the TFT layer. When you display an image, you actually display it line by line (sequentially) as you can only change one line at a time. An AMOLED uses a TFT which contains a storage capacitor which maintains the line pixel states, and so enables large size (and large resolution) displays.”

OLED-Display has even more info on how it all specifically works together:

“Active matrix (AM) OLED displays stack cathode, organic, and anode layers on top of another layer – or substrate – that contains circuitry. The pixels are defined by the deposition of the organic material in a continuous, discrete “dot” pattern. Each pixel is activated directly: A corresponding circuit delivers voltage to the cathode and anode materials, stimulating the middle organic layer. AMOLED pixels turn on and off more than three times faster than the speed of conventional motion picture film – making these displays ideal for fluid, full-motion video.”

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With AMOLED displays, because of that very simple construction, these panels can get extremely thin, too. Not only that, but AMOLED panels don’t require a backlight. You might see many reviewers on the web (including Talk Android) talk about how blacks on a AMOLED display look deep and rich. And that’s because there is no backlight.

Since you don’t have that backlight, AMOLED displays are able to produce that very deep black, allowing those specific pixels to completely shut off. While it’s minimal, you’re actually saving electricity and battery life this way, ultimately letting you get a little bit more usage out of your phone before it needs to be put on the wire. To save more energy and battery life, you could put a darker (or completely black) background on your phone, and get a good amount of extra juice from it. That’s part of the theory behind Samsung’s Ultra Power Saving Mode.

What is Super AMOLED?

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Truth be told, there aren’t too many differences between a regular AMOLED display and Samsung’s coined Super AMOLED display technology. In fact, much of it is very much the same. Traditionally, a regular AMOLED display would have the capacitive  touchscreen as a separate layer on top of the display itself. Samsung’s Super AMOLED display is a little different in that the capacitive touchscreen layer is fused right into the display.

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What benefit does that bring, exactly? Well, this means that Samsung can create even thinner displays than before. Not only that, but this design uses less power and reflects less light, ultimately giving you a better view of your display under direct sunlight or even in general outdoor use.

What does this mean for you?

When it comes down to it, you don’t have to worry about any of the technical jargon above. It’s certainly cool knowing what’s going on behind the scenes of an AMOLED display, but what you need to know is that, by using a Super AMOLED panel, Samsung is able to give you a thinner profile device. Not only that, but you’re getting something that takes up less power (more battery life for you) and also looks good in most environments (e.g. the outdoors).

Now, if you’re trying to choose between a device sporting a Super AMOLED/AMOLED display or an LCD display, you aren’t going to notice huge differences. Both will look good, but what you might notice are subtle changes, like more vibrant colors, the aforementioned deeper blacks and better to see in direct sunlight.

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It’s worth mentioning that there are some serious technical differences between AMOLED and LCD. In fact, the differences are considerably high as far as color accuracy, saturation and the tone of whites go. But, in everyday use, the changes are extremely subtle. As I already mentioned, the biggest difference you’re going to notice is slightly more vibrant colors on the AMOLED side of things.

So, which display is right for you? Either will get the job done, and get it done well. Ultimately, it comes down to what your preference is — vibrant colors and better viewing angles in direct sunlight or more toned down colors? Of course, the display isn’t the only factor you should consider when picking up a phone, as there’s plenty else to look at, such as the processor, RAM, storage sizes, battery size and so on.

Closing

All in all, Super AMOLED and AMOLED panels are an interesting gambit. It’s quite amazing the technology we can shove into such a small profile in order to produce a gorgeous display. And things are only improving from here on out. For instance, Samsung’s Super AMOLED “Edge” panels add an interesting level of dimension to the viewing experience. Not only that, but the core of the technology behind AMOLED — OLED — is constantly improving, so we can only expect to get better displays in the future.


About the Author: Brad Ward

Brad is a tech enthusiast, writing and tinkering with all things technology since 2011. He currently bounces between the LG G3 and his beloved Moto X! His interests include reading, entrepreneurship, the gym, and of course, queso.


  • mike

    How can I use this to listen on my wifes phone

  • Spyder

    I disagree. I think LCD is much easier to see in direct sunlight than AMOLED. I just did a test between my iPhone 7 Plus and my LG G4, both turned as bright as they could go and took them into direct sunlight. The iPhone with its LCD screen was a LOT brighter in direct sunlight than the LG G4 AMOLED screen. I think we’ve always known that LCD is better in direct sunlight than AMOLED and I was surprised to see that information refuted in this article. It’s the same with watches. LCD screens like Pebbles are much easier to see in direct sunlight than my AMOLED LG Urbane, which is almost impossible to see in sunlight.