Display upgrades among smartphone makers are under way as full-screen, bezel-free smartphones become more popular, with active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) gradually becoming the mainstream display technology, CGS-CIMB Securities (Hong Kong) Ltd (銀河-聯昌證券) said last week.
Compared with amorphous-silicon LCD and advanced low-temperature polysilicon LCD technology, AMOLED is a panel production technology that offers excellent display quality — thinner, more flexible screens, unparalleled color contrast and higher brightness — as well as a faster response rate and greater energy savings, CGS-CIMB said.
However, there are some disadvantages to AMOLED displays, including higher production costs and quicker diode degradation, it said. Furthermore, AMOLED displays produce a greater contrast ratio, so backlit LCDs are better visible in direct sunlight.
“Apart from more sophisticated cameras and a faster chipset, display has also become one of the most important attributes that differentiates a smartphone as it improves the user experience,” CGS-CIMB analysts Ray Kwok (郭錦威) and Mathew Hau (侯文普) said in a report on Wednesday last week.
Samsung Electronics Co first adopted AMOLED panels in February 2016 in its S7 and Note 7 models, while Apple Inc in September last year turned to AMOLED technology for its iPhone X and Huawei Technologies Inc (華為) in October last year launched its Mate 10 Pro model, which uses an AMOLED display. Since then, Oppo Mobile Telecommunications Corp (歐珀), Vivo Communication Technology Co (維沃) and Xiaomi Corp (小米) have all used flexible AMOLED panels for their flagship models.
The display upgrades are to remain the focus of all leading handset players from next year to 2022, the analysts said, adding that the technological migration to AMOLED could be the next growth driver for a stagnant smartphone industry, as penetration is forecast to jump from 18 percent to 40 percent in that period, Kwok and Hau said.
The CGS-CIMB report came after Morgan Stanley on Nov. 22 said that the increase of AMOLED panels used in mid to high-end smartphones is the only positive factor to support the industry from next year onward, with AMOLED panel adoption in smartphones to increase from 20 percent this year to 24 percent next year and 29 percent in 2020.
Apart from smartphones, from 2020, AMOLED is expected to become the main display technology for a wide range of items, including wearable devices, augmented reality and virtual reality devices, as well as automotive dashboards, CGS-CIMB said.
“We expect the popularity of AMOLED applications to catalyze significant new demand in the next five to 10 years, which should benefit AMOLED panel manufacturers and display module manufacturers,” Kwok and Hau said.
Meanwhile, flexible AMOLED technology, which makes bendable and curved screens possible, is predicted to accelerate the development of foldable phones, the analysts said.
Samsung is likely to introduce the world’s first foldable phone at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, in February, followed by Huawei in the first half of next year, they said.
Samsung Display Co, a subsidiary of Samsung Electronics, remains the dominant panelmaker in flexible AMOLED for smartphones, they said.
Nevertheless, several Chinese panelmakers — including BOE Technology Group Co (京東方), China Star Optoelectronics Technology (華星) and Tianma Microelectronics (天馬微電子) — will become the key flexible AMOLED players from 2020, when they are to ramp up new production lines, they said.
Based on CGS-CIMB's estimates, the small-to-mid-sized flexible AMOLED panel output of Chinese makers would surpass that of South Korean players such as Samsung Display and LG Display Co by 2022, with Chinese makers commanding 38 percent share in the global smartphone flexible AMOLED display market in terms of output volume while South Korean suppliers taking 31 percent, Kwok and Hau said.
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