Knowledge Base

Mobile Phone Displays: LCD vs Organic LED Displays

grand master

In our on-going series of articles, we’d like to find out what the ideal mobile phone might look like if it were designed by giffgaff members. What kind of specifications would it have? Would it have a hardware keyboard or a software keyboard? Would voice-control features such as Siri be an essential feature for you? Would it run Android, iOS, Windows Phone or something else?


In this latest article, we look at mobile display technology. As giffgaff members, you can make the most out of the multimedia features of your phone with unlimited data on our giffgaff goodybags. That means you can use your phone to watch YouTube videos, browse the latest photos from last night’s party on Facebook and to tweet your snaps from the front row of the concert. You can also use one of our SIMs in your tablet with a giffgaff gigabag. In order to get the best multimedia experience from your smartphone or tablet, you’ll want a sharp, vibrant and high-resolution display. We’d like to find out which type of display you prefer. Do you prefer LCD displays, organic LED (OLED) displays or something a bit different like an electronic ink display?


Cathode Ray Tube (CRT Displays)


CRT.jpgHistorically, the most common way to produce an image on a television display or a computer monitor has been to use a Cathode Ray Tube (CRT). CRT technology makes use of the fact that fast-moving electrons can produce light when they crash into a surface (e.g. the front screen of your television). CRT displays work by creating a beam of electrons which are then accelerated and directed to different regions of your display with a series of magnets. The number of electrons directed to different regions of the display can be carefully controlled in order to give the intended colours which form an image on the screen.


Because of the heaviness and bulkiness of CRT displays (mainly from needing to accelerate electrons to high speeds), they have gradually been phased out. CRT technology has never been used in a mobile device due to the fact it has never been made suitably portable and light enough to carry round in a pocket.


Liquid Crystal Display (LCD Displays)


HTC Sensation.jpgLiquid Crystal Display (LCD) is the most common display technology used within mobile phones and tablets. It is employed by mobile phones such as the Apple iPhone 4S, HTC Sensation (pictured), Orange San Francisco, LG Optimus 3D and tablets such as the Apple iPad 2. Being much more compact and portable than CRT displays, LCD is now the standard display technology for televisions and computer monitors as well as being the most commonly used display technology in mobiles.


LCD displays feature two elements: a backlight overlaid with a layer of liquid crystals. LCDs themselves do not emit light: instead, this is provided by a backlight. The backlight produces a constant source of illumination with the layer of liquid crystals above the backlight then blocking individual colours to produce the required colour.


Organic LED (OLED Displays)


Galaxy Nexus.jpgOrganic LED displays differs in that organic light emitting diodes are used. These diodes each individually emit light directly without the need for a backlight. Being a much newer technology, there are fewer mobile devices using OLED displays compared to LCD displays. OLED displays can be found in mobile phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S II, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (pictured) and the Nokia Lumia 800.


LCD vs Organic LED


Organic LED (OLED) displays benefit from much higher contrast ratios and lower battery consumption compared to LCD displays. Because organic LEDs emit light themselves, they can simply be turned on and off depending on what needs to be shown on the screen. LCD displays must instead be backlit: dark pixels are created by using the liquid crystals to block light and white pixels are created by allowing light to pass through the liquid crystal layer. Darker blacks are inevitably gained from turning off the light source directly rather than blocking light from the light source so OLEDs give better contrast as well as reduced power consumption.


Galaxy Tab 7.7.pngThe downsides of OLED display technology are that they are more expensive, difficult to produce and that blue OLEDs have a shorter lifetime. Some people also feel that the colours produced by an OLED display are “unrealistically oversaturated”. The difficulty of producing large OLED displays also means there are no commercially available tablet devices with an OLED displays at the moment. The first OLED tablet is set to be the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 (pictured) which will be released later this year.


The Display of the Future


When comparing mobile phone displays, LCD vs OLED isn’t the only comparison factor. The following technologies could also make their way into the display of the future:


  • Electronic ink – The Amazon Kindle e-book reader is relatively unique in the mobile world in that it uses an electronic ink display. E-ink displays work in the same way as real paper by reflecting ambient light rather than producing light themselves like an LCD or OLED display does. This makes it great for reading outdoors and the lack of an internal light source means your battery lasts for weeks at a time. The Kindle features a basic web browser and you can now tether your Kindle for browsing on the go if you’ve got a giffgaff gigabag. The now-discontinued Motorola F3 phone also featured an e-ink display.
  • 3D Displays – The LG Optimus 3D and HTC Evo 3D both feature auto-stereoscopic 3D displays allowing you to watch 3D movies on-the-go and to take photos in 3D.
  • Flexible.jpgFlexible DisplaysSamsung and Nokia have both demonstrated prototype flexible OLED displays this year. Such technology could eventually lead to a tablet you can fold up into a smartphone when you leave home or a smartphone which could be rolled up and attached around your wrist like a watch.
  • Toughened Displays – Many high-end mobile devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S II, the LG Optimus 2X and the HTC Sensation feature Gorilla Glass. This is toughened glass for your smartphone which is chemically treated to be scratch and shatter resistant.
  • Projectors – Although no mainstream smartphones currently feature a built-in projector, smartphones with built-in projectors have been demonstrated. These smartphones allow you to project photos or movies onto the nearest wall or the nearest surface. Projector phones allow your multimedia to expand beyond the size constraints of your mobile display.

With people consuming more and more multimedia on their smartphones, the display has now become one of the most important comparison factors in choosing a new mobile device. What do you look out for in a display when you’re choosing a new phone? Which type of display do you think is best for consuming multimedia and how large should that display be? Do you like the large displays of the HTC Sensation XL (4.7-inches) and Samsung Galaxy Note (5.3-inches) or have they gone a step too far? Would you put a 3D display or a flexible display onto your perfect phone or are they just gimmicks? Drop us a comment with your thoughts.


good info in there Smiley Happy


Nice info here Smiley Happy


Personally i'm an OLED man. Both my Phone and Zune (dont hate me) have OLED displays and they're so crisp! Aswell as the extended battery life they offer (my phone lasts about 9 or 10 days on a single charge), they're the best IMO.


One thing missing from the OLED section is that the viewing angle isnt restricted like LCDs due to the light being emitted from the pixel, rather than light being directed through. Could've probably mentioned TN and IPS in LCDs but that might be a bit too much information for some users. Still a nice set of info Smiley Happy

grand master

@vrocker Larger viewing angles in OLED are a great point - thanks!! Just out of interest, which phone do you manage to get 9-10 days on a single charge from? I'm usually surprised to hear about smartphones getting through 2 days on a single charge!




You failed to mention in your comments about CRT'S, that even today they still provide the most superior picture quality,  certainly not the most cost effective or comercially viabale but still the best image with the most realistic colurs and best viewing angles.


LCD's and OLEDs still have a long way to go before they can beat a CRT, but they are catching up.


having been one of the lucky first buyers of the Orange San Francisco my vote is wholeheartedly for Amoled.

as yet I have not even held a phone with Super Amoled, but would love to do so.


Whats the differance between giffgaff users and Voda o2 or 3 users.are they not as intelligent as giffgaff users.?


A missing point in lcd vs oled/amoled comparison:


Oled's power saving is most evident in dark themes/web pages/backgrounds. The difference in power comsumption can be as much 10-12 times greater on a white background, especially when bright ambient light requires the screen brightness to be up high. It's great when phone themes/apps/web pages have dark backgrounds, but many web sites are not aimed at oled displays (why should they be?) so if you do a lot of web browsing during the day you may spend a lot of time with the screen not actually giving you the power savings you're hoping for. But if you're a night owl the you're laughing all the way to the (battery) bank. :-)


A second point to bear in mind is pentile pixel arrangements on some oled displays. This is where there fewer blue sub-pixels than red/green sub-pixels. Most of the time you won't notice this, but where the information displayed on the screen relies on high contrast for lines/shapes some people have commented that the display seems "a bit fuzzy". Just another point to bear in mind.


None of this is intended to imply oled displays aren't good - they are! But I am re-inforcing the need to try out potential buys in a shop before you shell out lots of your hard-earned on a shiny new phone. ;-)


AMOLED screens look beautiful.  They used to be prone to burn in (the Android notification bar for example).  No idea if that's still the case.

grand master

@dinkster You make a very good point! There are some OLEDs with the PenTile matrix (RGBG) and others with a Real-Stripe matrix (RGB). For Samsung manufactured displays/devices, "AMOLED Plus" displays means it uses a Real-Stripe whereas standard AMOLED uses PenTile. For example, Galaxy S II is Real-Stripe but Galaxy Nexus & Galaxy Note is PenTile. I'm not 100% sure how Nokia brand their displays but I believe the Lumia 800 has PenTile.




Great review, very interesting. Thank`s again @kenlo