You spend a great deal of time looking at the screen on your smartphone, marvelling at the tight pixels and vibrant colours that would have been impossible just a few years ago. Smartphone touch panels seem to be getting bigger all the time, but the other dimension – thickness – doesn’t get as much attention. Manufacturers have been working to make touchscreens thinner so the devices themselves can be thinner, and LG has just made a big leap forward. At the end of last week, the Korean company announced the thinnest 1080p LCD panel ever. It’s only 2.2mm thick and has almost no bezel.
In recent years, the quest for super-thin touchscreen panels has led many OEMs to adopt some form of AMOLED technology, usually manufactured by Samsung. The big advantage here is that the light from an OLED screen comes from the pixels themselves. Since the display needs no backlight, it can be incredibly thin. For example, the 5in Super AMOLED screen in the Samsung Galaxy S4 is just shy of 2mm thick.
LG’s panel is an LCD, though, so it needs a backlight. The big step here is that the company was able to construct a panel that is 5.2in diagonal with a touch sensor and backlight at just 2.2mm thick. It can even put out more light than almost any other LCD on the market – 535 nits of brightness. Even the much smaller iPhone 5 LCD panel is thicker at 2.4mm with its slim LED backlight.
LG calls its new technology Advanced One-Glass-Solution (OGS). It involves inserting dual flexible printed circuits between the panel itself and the touchfilm layer you interact with. The entire package is bonded together with a clear resin that won’t block light and maintains thinness.
But what difference can a few fractions of a millimetre make? Actually, quite a lot. Modern smartphones are engineered to within a hair’s breadth of perfection. Every component is packed into as small a space as possible, leaving no room for error – or for oversized components.
As the trend continued towards larger phones with thinner profiles, AMOLED displays have gained traction. However, Samsung keeps the best AMOLEDs for use in its own products. The Motorola Droid Razr line is a prime example of this. While these phones are very thin, thanks in part to the AMOLED screens, they’ve traditionally had poorer quality panels than the comparable Samsung phones.
A 2.2mm LCD in this size range could finally give OEMs an alternative to AMOLED when a phone has to be as thin as possible. The almost non-existent bezels could also slim down the borders on the final device. LCDs also tend to have more accurate colour reproduction than AMOLED, more light output, plus they don’t suffer from burn-in, and are more battery-efficient when displaying a colour other than pure black.
Making thinner devices is all well and good, but this LG panel might also give designers some more leeway to include larger batteries. Even a sliver of a millimetre gets engineers closer to being able to squeeze in a few more milliampere-hours of juice.
LG hasn’t said when this screen will be in devices, but the unannounced LG Optimus G2 has been rumoured to have a 5.2in screen, so perhaps this is it.