First, argues DSCC, because 5G smartphones are high-end phones, buyers are willing to spend more and expect the best display technology. Second, in China, the government is subsidizing the adoption of 5G by providing a subsidy of ~$100 to carriers and smartphone brands which makes it easier to afford the cost of a rigid or flexible OLED display.
Third, 5G smartphones will consume more power and will need to adopt an OLED if they intend to deliver close to the same battery life within the same thickness as 4G smartphones. Increased power will come from a separate 5G modem chip, the Qualcomm X50, when used with their high-end 5G processor, the Snapdragon 865.
In addition, according to other market analysis firm Counterpoint, 5G phones will require additional chips in the front-end module due to additional 5G frequencies, additional RF tuners, additional power management ICs for sub-6 GHz, extra passive ICs, additional fast charging ICs, etc. In total, for mmWave, they estimate the additional chip cost as $85 which will consume most of the $100 subsidy.
However, with all the additional chips, these phones really would benefit from an OLED if they intend to maintain their thickness and power. A thin, flexible OLED would offset most of the thickness, weight and power penalties from moving to 5G. In addition, dark mode and LTPO will further widen the power savings by adopting OLEDs.
This makes DSCC conclude that 5G is a catalyst for OLEDs.