AU Optronics Corp (AUO, 友達光電) yesterday said it is working with clients to offer flexible displays for their new foldable phones, likely later this year, an early sign that the industry is embracing such dual-screen phones for lack of major killer features.
That could be a breakthrough for the LCD panel maker, which has been supplying OLEDs for smaller devices, mostly wearables, in the past few years.
AUO’s remarks came after the world’s two biggest mobile phone companies — South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co and China’s Huawei Technologies Co (華為) — recently showcased their latest foldable phones, the Galaxy Fold and Mate X respectively.
Such foldable phones “are a novelty that adopts display technologies in a new way and make such phones a new hybrid of mobile phones and tablets,” AUO chairman Paul Peng (彭双浪) told a media briefing.
“AUO has been putting resources in developing such displays. Hopefully we will see AUO’s flexible displays used in new foldable phones from branded vendors in 2019,” he said.
Unlike Huawei’s out-folding display, AUO has focused on in-folding displays, which have higher technological barriers, Peng said.
AUO plans to produce OLEDs at a 4.5-generation plant in Singapore for foldable phones, ordinary mobile phones and wearable devices.
Foldable phones are a “breakthrough,” but it remains to be seen how consumers will react to their high prices, and it would take time to see an uptake in such phones, Peng said.
The Galaxy Fold and Mate X have been priced at about US$2,000.
Samsung said the Galaxy Fold, which has a 7.3-inch main display and a 4.6-inch cover display, would reach stores next quarter.
New orders have started to trickle in after supply chain inventories were falling to healthy levels after the Lunar New Year holiday, and it has also received some orders that were shifted away from peers that have hit bottlenecks in boosting production, AUO said.
The order outlook for next quarter seems positive, which would push its factory utilization to almost 100 percent, it said.
AUO, which posted its first quarterly losses last quarter due to an overcapacity-driven industry slump, said oversupply would become a norm and it was increasing proportions of value-added products in its product lineup.
The value-added products, which include 85-inch ultra-high-definition 8K TV panels and flat panels for gaming PCs, would account for 50 percent of its revenue, AUO said.
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