How Samsung is climbing the charts

It’s no secret that Samsung is up against Apple in many ways, in products, sales and innovation. However, even in the face of Apple’s patent infringement lawsuits, Samsung is still climbing the charts. The electronics giant sold approximately $53 billion in revenue in the last quarter of 2012, in comparison to Apple’s $36 billion in revenue, though the profit margins both companies are seeing were relatively similar. And while Bloomberg is predicting Apple will post its lowest sales increase since 2009, Samsung is reportedly poised for big growth in a number of sectors.  

Samsung grabs No. 3 foundry spot

Samsung jumped into the foundry scene in mid-2010, and quickly became one of the anticipated long-term leaders in the sector. It’s now easily the biggest IDM foundry operation, with sales nearly 10 times that of IBM, IC Insights noted in January. IC Insights’ August update projected Samsung finishing in fourth place just behind UMC, separated by about $400 million, but anticipated Samsung surpassing the Taiwan rival in 2013.

Samsung followed a sparkling 82 percent growth in 2011 by nearly doubling sales again to $4.33 billion, putting it just shy of GLOBALFOUNDRIES which grew sales a solid 31 percent last year to $4.56B. In fact IC Insights believes Samsung will challenge GLOBALFOUNDRIES for the No.2 spot before 2013 is done, leveraging its leading-edge capacity and huge capital spending budget. With dedicated IC foundry capacity reaching 150,000 300mm wafers/month by 4Q12, and an average revenue/wafer of $3000, Samsung’s IC foundry capacity could pull down $5.4B in annual sales, the analyst firm calculates.

How did Samsung get so big so fast in the foundry business? It supplied chips to nearly half of the industry’s 750 million smartphones shipped in 2012 — application processors for the 220 million of its own handsets in 2012, plus the 133 million iPhones Apple shipped.

Thanks to the Galaxy S4, Samsung has 99% of the AMOLED market

Samsung has invested a considerable amount into the AMOLED market, which is now poised for steady growth, thanks to a growing demand for high-end smartphones and tablets. According to Forbes contributor Haydn Shaughnessy, Samsung now holds 99% of the AMOLED market.

AMOLED display shipments for mobile handset applications are expected to grow to 447.7 million units in 2017, up from 195.1 million units in 2013, according to insights from the IHS iSuppli Emerging Displays Service at information and analytics provider IHS. Within the mobile handset display market, the market share for AMOLED displays is forecast to grow from 7.9% in 2013 to 15.2 percent in 2017, as presented in the figure below. AMOLED’s market share for 4-inch or larger handset displays employed in smartphones is set to increase to 24.4% in 2017, up from 23.0% in 2013.

“Because of their use in marquee products like the Galaxy S4, high-quality AMOLEDs are growing in popularity and gaining share at the expense of liquid crystal display (LCD) screens,” said Vinita Jakhanwal, director for mobile & emerging displays and technology at IHS. “These attractive AMOLEDs are part of a growing trend of large-sized, high-resolution displays used in mobile devices. With the S4 representing the first time that a full high-definition (HD) AMOLED has been used in mobile handsets, Samsung continues to raise the profile of this display technology.”

Samsung anticipates MEMS pressure sensor market boom

Samsung has been ahead of its time in its adoption of MEMS pressure sensors, anticipating the state of the market and getting a jump on the competition.

Global shipments of MEMS pressure sensors in cellphones are set to rise to 681 million units in 2016, up more than eightfold from 82 million in 2012, according to the IHS iSuppli MEMS & Sensors Service at information and analytics provider IHS. Shipments this year are expected to double to 162 million units, as presented in the attached figure, primarily due to Samsung’s usage of pressure sensors in the Galaxy S4 and other smartphone models.

“Samsung is the only major original equipment manufacturer (OEM) now using pressure sensors in all its flagship smartphone models,” said Jérémie Bouchaud, director and senior principal analyst for MEMS and sensors at IHS. “The pressure device represents just one component among a wealth of different sensors used in the S4.”

Besides Samsung, few other OEMs have been using pressure sensors in smartphones. The only other smartphone OEMs to use pressure sensors in their products are Sony Mobile in a couple of models in 2012, and a few Chinese vendors, like Xiaomi.

Apple, which pioneered the use of MEMS sensors in smartphones, does not employ pressure sensors at the moment in the iPhone. However, IHS expects Apple will start them in 2014, which will contribute to another doubling of the market in 2014 to 325 million units.

But what about the patent infringement suit?

Six months after Samsung was ordered to pay an unprecedented $1.05 billion to Apple in the notorious patent infringement suit, Judge Lucy Koh, the federal judge presiding over two Apple v. Samsung cases in California, entered an order striking $450 million from the damages award determined by a jury in August 2012. This corresponds to 14 of the 28 Samsung products in question in the initial lawsuit. Koh disagreed with the notice date provided by Apple concerning its patents-in-suit, and, as a result, a new damages trial must be held, most likely after the appellate proceedings, which were sought by both parties.

The new trial could mean good news or bad news for Samsung. There is the possibility that the court could rule in favor of a reduction of damages to be paid. However, it is also just as likely that the court could rule Samsung owe Apple even more than the original $1.05 billion ordered in August.

Some analysts have speculated that, if the suit holds, consumers could see a jump in prices of Samsung, Google and Android devices. Only time will tell if will a price that the masses will be willing to pay. If it is, don’t expect to see Samsung slowing down any time soon.

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