How ‘Super AMOLED’ Displays WorkS

Some tablets and smartphones ship with an AMOLED display. Newer ones are shipping with a "Super AMOLED" display. What so super about it, and what does all this alphabet soup even mean?

The short version is that a Super AMOLED touchscreen display integrates touch sensors with the glass surface panel, eliminating at least one layer of glass and with it, a layer of air. That's what makes Super AMOLED super. Only Samsung makes it.

How ‘Super AMOLED’ Displays WorkS

Super AMOLED schematic from Samsung

I said "at least one layer of glass" because AMOLED itself eliminates at least one layer in a display. The current Galaxy Tab, for example, uses a TFT-LCD (Thin-Film Transistor Liquid Crystal Display) screen. Until very recently, TFT-LCD has been the state of the art in thin color displays and is still the only cost-effective option in the vast majority of displays larger than a smartphone screen.

TFT-LCD has approximately four layers: a backlight, a TFT color filter, a touch-sensor panel, and an outer glass screen. AMOLED (Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode) eliminates the separate backlight. AMOLED, however, is known for having problems with glare and readability in direct sunlight, even relative to average LCD screens. By minimizing the number of reflective surfaces and power necessary to achieve vivid color, Super AMOLED was designed in part to address this.

Samsung introduced Super AMOLED to commercial devices this year with the Samsung Wave, which ran their own Bada OS. The Android-powered Samsung Galaxy series of smartphones made the displays popular, and it's since appeared on Samsung's Windows Phone 7 handsets as well.

There are other advanced color technologies in the market, all of them super, and all of them extra-expensive: Super LCD recently joined Super IPS and Advanced Super View. But only Super AMOLED has really captured the popular imagination.

A 7-inch Android tablet with an AMOLED display would probably be a serious advance over its current LCD screen. But if it's "just" AMOLED, something about it would just seem … less than super.


How ‘Super AMOLED’ Displays WorkWired.com has been expanding the hive mind with technology, science and geek culture news since 1995.