Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Plastic OLEDs in the Pixel 6 Pro

Concerns about the use of POLED displays may be unfounded

Key Takeaways

  • Android fans are expecting news about Google’s upcoming flagship phone lineup, the Pixel 6.
  • Rumors about the new phone have been surfacing for months.
  • Some of the latest leaks seem to suggest Google will use LG’s POLED displays in the Pixel 6 lineup, stirring concerns about the quality of the display.
Google Pixel 5 and earbuds render in Sorta Sage

Google

A recent leak of a spec sheet for Google’s Pixel 6 has stirred up concerns about the use of POLED displays in the new flagship phones, but experts say users don’t need to worry.

Well known leaker Jon Prosser has shared a leaked spec sheet for both the upcoming Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. Among these specs were their screen sizes, camera setups, and the types of displays that they would use. While the specs look great, one notable detail about the Pixel 6 Pro is it will use a plastic OLED (POLED) display. This inclusion has led to some concerns that the phone will follow in the footsteps of the Pixel 2 XL, which experienced a multitude of display-related issues upon release.

"A plastic-OLED is basically an OLED made on a plastic substrate, which enables it to be flexible. In fact, all flexible OLEDs today are made on plastic substrates—the ones used by all of Apple's iPhones and the Watch, in all high-end smartphones by Samsung, and others," Ron Mertens, an expert in material technology like OLED and MicroLED, told Lifewire in an email. 

"Normal users won't see much difference," he continued. "A flexible OLED can be bent (to enable edge-like designs) and most companies prefer it to a glass OLED because it is thinner and lighter."

We’ve Got History

A lot of the concerns surrounding the use of plastic OLED in the Pixel 6 Pro stem from the release of the Pixel 2 XL. Originally launched in 2017, the Pixel 2 XL suffered from a series of display-related issues like image retention. Similar to image burn-in, image retention happens when static images on the screen are "burned" into the screen. Unlike burn-in, though, image retention goes away after a while.

There were also issues reported with the display seeming more blue than usual when the phone was viewed at certain angles. While the issue was originally attributed to the use of the plastic OLED displays, it was later clarified that the problem came from Google’s choice to use a circular polarizer in the display. Nobody really understands why Google made that decision, but when compared to other displays of the era, the blue tint was easy to see.

No Cause for Concern

So, while the Pixel 2 XL might have suffered from some issues, the cause wasn’t the plastic OLED. Additionally, the use of plastic to help mitigate the cost of phone displays is becoming more and more common, according to Christen Costa, tech expert and CEO of Gadget Review.

"POLED displays are most likely going to become the norm for devices like smartphones. They're cheaper to produce and on the whole more durable," Costa explained in an email. "The user is presented with a screen option that functions almost identically to an OLED, but costs less and is flexible enough to withstand bending and survive drops."

"A flexible OLED can be bent (to enable edge-like designs) and most companies prefer it to a glass OLED because it is thinner and lighter."

Costa says knowing the displays are made using plastic can lead to users having a negative perception of it. However, he said that being cost-effective and smarter with your design plans doesn’t necessarily make the final product "cheap." 

Instead, he and Mertens say the use of plastic as a substrate for creating phone displays is what has allowed for the more modern designs we have now. Edge to edge displays, rounded corners, and other bent designs are all doable because of the plastic substances used in their designs.

Ultimately, though, Costa says the difference will be negligible to everyday users.

"The differences in clarity between POLED and OLED screens are just enough so that tech-minded individuals will feel like they're getting an inferior product," he explained. "We've also seen very few glass-free screens. Usually there's still a protective layer over the POLED, so your phone screen can still shatter. If that glass barrier isn't there, you'll also find POLED displays far easier to scratch."

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