For the first Game Boy Advance model (AGB-001), Nintendo originally sourced screens from one panel supplier: Sharp.
I remember reading in magazines around 2002 that a new, brighter display would be hitting units, starting with the black Game Boy Advance (er, if my memory serves me correctly that is) which I think launched in Europe in April 2002.
That would line up with what Nintendo World Report published in August 2001 (emphasis mine):
Sharp has been making screen for the Game Boy Color and the Game Boy Advance. Previously, they were hard pressed to meet the demand for the LCDs. Apparently, they have been so hard pressed that Nintendo is now going to be receiving screens from Panasonic as well. Sample screens have already been shipped. By March 31, Nintendo plans to have shipped between 24 and 25 million GBAs. Only about 5% of those units will have Panasonic screens though, which means that Sharp isn’t really in any trouble of loosing Nintendo’s business.
It sounds like about 1.25m of the total 25m GBAs shipped by March 2002 contained the Panasonic displays, if I’m understanding this correctly, with that proportion probably increasing after March 31.
According to a GameFAQs hardware FAQ they are better, but without any context (what does sharper mean when the resolution is the same?) I’m not sure this is helpful:
Q. Is there any difference apart from superficial ones between them?
A. Some of the newer GBAs (black and orange guaranteed, others sometimes) have superior Matsushita (Panasonic) screens as opposed to the older Sharp ones. Not only does this make the screen sharper, it also makes the GBA look better with an Afterburner.
Someone has started filming the Game Boy Advance display on YouTube running a variety of games. Beautiful footage but the unit looks like every other GBA I’ve used:
So the big question is: what was the difference between the Sharp and Panasonic displays?
Was there even a difference? Were magazines at the time fooled by the placebo effect? if Panasonic wasn’t replacing Sharp, surely Nintendo would have demanded their displays meet the same specifications as Sharps to ensure consistency?