Hard vs Soft OLED: iPhone X, XS Series, 11 Pro Series, and 12 Series
In May of 2018, the industry was introduced to the first iPhone X Aftermarket LCD. With the release of the iPhone XS series, iPhone 11 Pro series, 12 series, and iPhone 13 series — Apple OLEDs have been raved and reviewed as "record-setting". When it comes to repairing these OLED-using devices, there are two options that you'll see most often: Hard and Soft OLEDs. Although both of these options provide various benefits, there are still a handful of downfalls to consider before choosing what to repair with in your cell phone repair store.
For an in-depth breakdown, watch our RepairTalk Live episode where Product Quality Technician Luke Nowland dives into the detail of what makes up a hard OLED, soft OLED, and Incell display.
Hard OLEDs are manufactured using a glass substrate. Glass is the material of choice for flat display assemblies, as the manufacturing process is very mature and all variables are easily controlled. Although the glass makeup has its benefits, it is more physically fragile and easy to break. Shock and deformation can cause this assembly to crack. Therefore, care must be used in the installation of the part. Due to the design of the phones and material limitations of the hard OLED, there is a slightly larger border between the bottom of the display and the bottom of the frame.
- Lower-priced option
- Reliable manufacturing process
- Somewhat resistant to screen burn-in
- The display module is physically more fragile than soft OLED
- Deformation, shock, or improper installation is likely to cause failure
- Doesn’t fit as close to the bottom edge as the soft OLED
Soft OLEDs are manufactured on a flexible plastic substrate. The soft OLEDs are more resilient to shock and slight deformation, meaning it’s a great option for an end-user who frequently drops their device. While the soft OLED itself is more resistant to damage, this does not provide any protection for the outer glass lens or other components.
Although it is a durable screen assembly, because it is made with plastic, it does not age as well internally as the hard OLED. Even the engineered plastic substrate of the soft OLED cannot be as pure or non-reactive as the glass substrate of a traditional hard OLED. Plastic is also a better thermal insulator than glass. These various factors mean that a soft OLED will tend to age (develop burn-in) more rapidly than a similar hard OLED.
- 1:1 display sizing compared to original
- Physically resilient display module
- Same material type used on the original device
- Shorter service life due to characteristics of the materials
- More expensive option
- More prone to burn-in
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