Samsung eyes bright future for mobile screens

Interactive LCD technologies, better high definition for handhelds in the works, executive says.

Michael Singer Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Singer
3 min read
SAN FRANCISCO--Electronics giant Samsung is hoping to achieve the same success on the small screen as it has with oversize TVs, the company said during a conference here this week.

The company is applying several tricks it learned making those 40-inch and 82-inch LCD flat-panel screens, as well as those jaw-dropping 102-inch plasma televisions--to handheld displays that measure 2 inches on average.

Joe Virginia, vice president with TFT-LCD Samsung Semiconductor, said his company is seeing a technology ripple effect that's expected to produce thinner handsets with high-definition quality images and improved touch-responsive hybrid screens.

Samsung Anycall with a high-definition screen
Credit: Samsung
Pictured are Samsung Anycall phones
with high-definition screens.

"Many of the technologies of large screens are finding their way to mobile applications and vice versa, resulting in much faster user access to what they want to see," Virginia said during a keynote address at the 22nd annual Flat Information Displays conference here.

For example, the company is taking the high-definition rendering mode it learned with LCD displays and translating that for mobile phones in camera mode, Virginia said.

Another part of improving the picture quality: adding white pixels to the standard RGB (red, green, blue) alignment--the three colors used to translate spectral light in displays and digital cameras. By adding white, Samsung claims the RGBW alignment increases the brightness on the screen by as much as 70 percent and reduces the amount of power needed for the display since there is a constant brightness factored in.

While Virginia didn't detail specific handheld products that will benefit from his company's technology advances, he nonetheless ticked off a long list of upgrades Samsung expects to roll out over the next year.

They include:

• Plans to increase the screen brightness from 200nit (a unit of luminance) to more than 300nit.

• Broadening the color palette in handhelds to 16.7 million colors, a 63 percent increase over the current 262,000 available today.

• Revising the interface specification from its current RGB interface to a high-speed serial-connected interface, a move that would lead to improved video quality.

• Improving the resolution from the standard QCIF (176 by 144 pixels) and QVGA (320 by 240 pixels) to a Wide Video Graphic Array (WVGA), which can accommodate 852 by 480 pixels.

The improvements will have a slimming effect on devices, reducing their depth from 2.1 millimeters to 1.6 millimeters.

In addition, Samsung is investing in hybrid touch-screen panels, which it expects to include in its display technologies in the fourth quarter of 2006.

Currently, mobile touch screens use a sensor film over a piece of glass. An optical sensor from below registers that there is a finger or stylus hovering over the device, and the touch sensor confirms that contact has been made. The hybrid panels combine the two, allowing manufacturers to reduce the thickness of the screen by more than a millimeter.

Much of Samsung's mobile production is done at the company's early-generation manufacturing plants known as Line-1 and Line-2 in Kiheung, Korea.

Samsung hopes to more than double its liquid crystal display sales to $20 billion by 2010, up from the $8.4 billion worth it sold in 2004, Virginia said in his speech.

To advance its large-screen television endeavors, the company is expected to open a new manufacturing facility in April 2006 in Tanjeong, South Korea. Known as Line 7-2, the building sits adjacent to Samsung's Line 7-1 plant that it shares with Sony to make 32-inch, 40-inch and 46-inch television screens.

The mobile-display industry is also consolidating. Royal Philips Electronics announced this week that it will acquire a 17.5 percent share in Toppoly Optoelectronics, a mobile-display provider in Taiwan.

And while outsourced manufacturing has affected the display market, the majority of companies keep production close to home, according to market research firm iSuppli. In the next four years, mobile-handset makers will send out 44 percent of their production work to electronics manufacturing services and original design manufacturing providers, iSuppli said in a research note Thursday. That 2009 prediction beats out the 34 percent of outsourced work in the mobile-display market that iSuppli estimates will happen in 2005.

The Flat Information Displays Conference, sponsored iSuppli, is often a place where vendors showcase the latest advancements in LCD, plasma and projection technology.