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GLOBAL – You may have noticed the word AMOLED appearing in descriptions of new mobile phones, such as the forthcoming Nokia N8. But what is this new technology, what problems does it help to solve and why is it a desirable thing to have? Here’s our quick five-minute guide to what AMOLED is and why you might want it on your next phone.

There are two main areas on your mobile phone that eat through your battery power like it’s going out of fashion; the display and the transmitter and receiver. Phone manufacturers have succeeded in reducing the amount of power the transmitter/receiver uses and now they’re focusing on the display.

When screens were small, the amount of power the display used wasn’t so much of a problem, but now screens are getting larger, the amount of energy they use has become critical. Reading web pages and watching video on a big 3-inch+ screen eats through power, especially if you’re using it in a outdoors where you may need to increase the brightness.

AMOLED displays consume less power than traditional Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) and Light Emitting Diode (LED) mobile displays, plus they’re also faster, and the colours are more natural.

AMOLED is short for Active-Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode (AM-OLED) and, as it says in the description, it’s a type of LED. The display is built up of four layers: a cathode layer, an emissive polymer layer, a conducting polymer layer and an anode layer, and when a current is passed through the layers, the polymer layers give off light.

However unlike conventional LED screen technologies, AMOLED displays do not require a back light, which is the part of a normal mobile display that uses the most power. Hence, AMOLED displays use a fraction of the energy of existing technologies.

Additionally, AMOLED displays are created by depositing organic compounds on a flexible plastic base (substrate) rather than the conventional silicon substrate. The advantage of using plastic is that the amoled display is thin, lightweight and rugged, unlike silicon which many mobile users know to their cost, is brittle, and easily broken.

One of the future uses for AMOLED is in foldable or roll-away displays. Those futuristic roll-up displays that we keep seeing on sci-fi films like Minority Report are just around the corner. The display engineers are working on them right now, and at some point in the next 5-10 years they will be appearing on your mobile phone.

picture credits: Wikimedia