The market tracking firm IHS forecasts rapid growth in displays for wearable devices. Not all devices need a display, but for many categories — such as smartwatches — the display more or less defines the user’s interaction with the system. A rigid rectangle is no longer sufficient, as designers want displays in circles and other shapes, and that can be curved to conform to wrists. We’re even getting close to displays that can bend and flex as needed, much like a standard watchband.
According to an IHS press release, the demand is going to create a hockey-stick growth curve with 54 million wearable display units set to ship worldwide in 2014. This number is set to soar to 800 million units in 2023. The value of this market is also breathtaking, rising from $0.3 billion in 2014 to $22.7 billion by 2023.
According to Sweta Dash, senior director for research and display at IHS, wearable displays must have good outdoor visibility, low power consumption, and a flexible form factor to enable different designs. LCDs still have the lead, but OLED technology holds the promise of reduced costs, self-emissive displays that are more efficient, and faster response time for great video performance. IHS expects OLED to dominate the market eventually, and cites LG Display’s circular plastic OLED screen that is already in mass production. The 1.3-inch diameter panel is just 0.6 mm thick, has 320 by 320 pixel resolution, and boasts 57% more display area than a 1.3-inch diagonal square display.