What’s Next after the Backlight in Display?
Front Lighting vs. Backlight and OLED
Improving the battery life of our devices remains one of the tech industry’s biggest challenges, and the most inefficient draw on power comes from the display, more specifically, the backlight that illuminates most displays. On most devices the backlight is as powerful as a car headlight, and uses most of that energy fighting light sources it could be using. But there is another, much more efficient display light. It does, however, work differently than a typical transmissive backlit display.
Will It Work in Sunlight?
Backlit and OLED displays fight sunlight and lose. Backlights are used in transmissive LCDs, which is a technical way of saying they shoot light directly into your eyes. OLEDs are emissive meaning they emit their own light (unlike the liquid crystals in LCDs). Both backlit and OLED displays are very difficult to read in direct sunlight.
The only screens that don’t fight the sun are ones with reflective displays. Displays that use Reflective LCDs and have a front light system (e.g., a FLEx system) can use sunlight or any ambient light in a room to illuminate the screen, and also have their own light for low-light conditions.
Overview: Three Types of Displays
Can use any ambient light that’s in front.
Light is beamed from behind the display into the viewers’ eyes.
Light emits from the pixels in the display (e.g., OLED).
More on Emissives
OLEDs use organic materials (the “O” in OLED), which sounds healthy, but it actually makes them less stable and prone to burnout quickly, which is a big drawback if you want a device to last more than 2 years.
Maybe you’ve heard of Apple’s secret MicroLED lab in California. These tiny LEDs are very difficult to manufacture, and it’s not likely that this technology will be ready for the mainstream in the next 5 to 7 years.
Get in Front with FLEx
Most people think front lighting a Reflective LCD screen isn’t possible, but FLEx has engineered a high-performance optical system about the thickness of a human hair that’s changed that. The technology works in old or new form factors with off-the-shelf LEDs, making it a smart choice for device makers who need their devices to work inside and outside and hold a charge for significantly longer durations.