When Apple changed to an OLED screen for the iPhone X in 2017, it threw a wrench in the production of aftermarket replacement screens. High quality refurbished OLEDs (like our GV+ screens) were readily available soon after the iPhone X launched, but a noticeable lull emerged before full aftermarket screens (our Pro screens) arrived.
When aftermarket screens did arrive – about six months later in May 2018 – they weren’t OLED. They were LCD. It took another couple months for aftermarket OLEDs to join the lineup and fill the gap between refurbished OLEDs and aftermarket LCDs. Once together, all three screens made (and continue to make) solid arguments for themselves at the nexus of price and performance.
Fast forward to the present, and there’s yet another option. Aftermarket OLEDs now come in two different ways: hard and soft (or flexible and rigid, depending on who you ask). To make things a little clearer, the first aftermarket OLED screens were soft, with hard coming out next. Original iPhone X screens have soft OLED, which allows the display to flex around the outermost edges of the screen.
Generally speaking, the more options you have, the better, but while the difference is clear between OEM refurb, aftermarket OLED, and aftermarket LCD, what should we make of this schism in aftermarket OLEDs? What’s the difference between soft and hard? And which one is better?
Let’s take a look.
Soft Vs. Hard in a Nutshell
First off, it’s easier to let the differences between hard and soft OLED speak for themselves than it is to declare one objectively better than the other. Price and performance both play a role in determining which replacement screen is best for you or your customers.
In a nutshell, here’s what you can take away from the soft vs. hard battle.
- Soft OLEDs are pricier, better match the iPhone X’s 5.8” display size and compare favorably to OEM performance
- Hard OLEDs are cheaper, perform nearly as well as an OEM screen, and are more fragile
Soft OLED (or Flexible OLED)
Soft OLED screens are built around a flexible substrate, like the iPhone X’s original screen. Because the manufacturing process doesn’t substitute this key component, the soft OLED is a step ahead of the hard OLED in mimicking original screen performance. Its display size matches the dimensions of the OEM screen, and the flexible substrate gives the soft OLED a leg up in hardiness, allowing it to absorb more impacts without malfunctioning or breaking.
Soft OLED’s key features:
- Color Contrast: Excellent color contrast
- Color Accuracy: Excellent color accuracy
- Brightness: Good brightness
- Display Size: Equivalent to OEM
- Power Consumption: Equivalent to OEM
- Durability: Equivalent to OEM, higher than Hard OLED
- Price: Higher than Hard OLED
Hard OLED (or Rigid OLED)
Hard OLED screens are built using a hard glass substrate instead of the flexible substrate found on the iPhone X’s original screen. Two benefits of the switch from soft to hard are cheaper production cost and higher screen brightness. These come at the expense of display size and durability. The hard glass substrate can’t flex to accommodate the original curve of the display, so the screen has an enlarged bezel that fractionally, but noticeably, reduces the size of the 5.8” display.
The hard glass substrate is also more prone to damage than the soft OLED, and may crack more easily if dropped. It’s also worth adding that, while enhanced screen brightness sound like an added to bonus, it may be harsher to look at.
Hard OLED’s key features:
- Color Contrast: Excellent
- Color Accuracy: Good
- Brightness: Excellent
- Display Size: Reduced from OEM (results in an increased bezel size)
- Power Consumption: Equivalent to OEM
- Durability: Lower than OEM and Soft OLED
- Price: Lower than Soft OLED
As indicated by each screen’s performance, the soft OLED more faithfully recreates the experience of using an OEM screen (which, again, is equipped with soft OLED to begin with), but the hard OLED isn’t too far behind. The reason we’re seeing two versions of an iPhone X aftermarket OLED screen is that the cheaper hard substrate can be used instead of the original flexible substrate without sacrificing too much in the way of performance. In the end, it’s up to every repair tech and end user to determine which screen will be best for each repair.
If you need to repair a broken iPhone X screen, you can find the replacement parts and tools you need in our online catalog. We currently stock OEM-refurbished GV+, soft OLED Pro, soft OLED Pro full assembly, hard OLED A+, and LCD A+ replacement screens for the iPhone X.