LCD technology has dominated the mobile phone display market for more than 15 years, but that is expected to change over the next five years, report several market researchers. Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display technology is forecast to overtake LCDs as the leading technology in smartphones in 2020, according to IHS Markit.
AMOLED displays with a low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS) backplane is expected to account for 36 percent of all smartphone displays shipped in 2020, surpassing a-Si (amorphous silicon) thin-film transistor (TFT) LCD and LTPS TFT LCD displays, according to the IHS Markit Display Long-Term Demand Forecast Tracker.
However, WitsView, a division of TrendForce, predicts a faster ramp up. The market researcher expects AMOLED displays to surpass 20 percent market share for smartphones in 2016, and rise to 40 percent in 2019.
Adopters of OLED displays for smartphones include Samsung, Huawei, OPPO, Vivo, and Meizu. Market researchers, including IHS Markit and TrendForce, also expect Apple to adopt OLED displays in its upcoming iPhone models.
“The market visibility of smartphones with AMOLED panels will rise again in 2017 when Apple is expected to formally deploy this technology for the iPhone,” said Boyce Fan, senior research manager at WitsView, in a statement. “AMOLED’s arrival will radically change the competitive landscape of the high-end smartphone market by challenging the dominance of LTPS LCD, which has been the main display technology for premium models in recent years. This will further lead to a new round of fierce price competition in the mid- and high-end smartphone panel markets.”
IHS forecasts global AMOLED manufacturing capacity to increase from 5 million square meters in 2014 to 30 million square meters in 2020. AMOLED display shipments are expected to grow 40 percent, year over year, to reach 395 million units in 2016, while revenue is forecast to increase by 25 percent, to reach $15 billion in 2016, according to IHS.
Analysts report that OLED technology’s drawbacks such as being more difficult to manufacture is outweighed by the key benefits, including a lighter and thinner display, as well as better color performance and flexible form factors.
“While OLED is currently more difficult to manufacture, uses more complicated materials and chemical processes, and requires a keen focus on yield-rate management, it is an increasingly attractive technology for smartphone brands,” said David Hsieh, senior director, IHS Markit, in a statement. “OLED displays are not only thinner and lighter than LCD displays, but they also boast better color performance and enable flexible display form factors that can lead to more innovative design.”
Several manufacturers, including “Samsung Display, LG Display, Sharp, JDI, BOE, Tianma, GVO, Truly, and CSOT are also starting to ramp up their AMOLED manufacturing capacities and devote more resources to technology development,” Hsieh said. “Samsung Display’s enormous sixth-generation A3 AMOLED fab, for example, will enable even more AMOLED displays to reach the market.”
Similarly, Fan said: “South Korean panel giant Samsung Display (SDC) has spent a considerable amount of time and resources in developing AMOLED products for the small- and mid-size display markets.”
“In the past, the demand for SDC’s AMOLED panels was mainly from Samsung Electronics for its branded mobile devices,” said Fan. “However, Apple’s plan to use AMOLED panels for next year’s iPhone release has triggered a fresh wave of demand in the smartphone market as competitors are also going to follow suit.”
“Products carrying AMOLED panels are projected to account for 70 percent of Samsung’s smartphone shipments this year,” said Fan. “SDC is also seeing a rise in the sales of AMOLED panels to other smartphone vendors, including Chinese brands. Over 50 percent of the respective smartphone shipments from OPPO and Vivo this year will be models with AMOLED screens.”
Fan believes LG Display (LGD) and Japan Display (JDI) will try to catch up with SDC by accelerating their timetables for the development and mass production of AMOLED panels, predicting the two companies becoming Apple’s AMOLED panel suppliers in 2018 at the earliest. “LGD and JDI’s efforts will eventually allow Apple to spread its orders out among multiple suppliers.”
Hsieh said Apple’s “adoption of OLED displays will be a milestone for OLED in the display industry.”