AMOLED use in small/medium displays prompts more suppliers, more adopters

April 12, 2012 — Active matrix organic light-emitting diodes (AMOLEDs) are moving from small-quantity development into higher volumes, with shipments destined for smartphones driving growth in the small- and medium-sized display (SMD) market in February, said IHS. SMDs are displays smaller than 10” diagonally.

Total SMD shipments hit 186.8 million units in February, up 9% from January, serving mobile handset, tablet and digital still camera makers, according to an IHS iSuppli Small & Medium Displays PriceTrak report. The increase brought to an end 4 straight months of shipment declines that started in October 2011 (see the figure).

Figure. Worldwide small/medium displays forecast by millions of units shipped. SOURCE: IHS iSuppli Research, April 2012.

AMOLED displays are gaining market share, and increased orders are coming in from Chinese electronics vendors. Worldwide shipments of AMOLED mobile handset displays are expected to increase sequentially by 14% in Q1 2012 and by 80% compared to the same time a year ago.

AMOLED displays are lighter weight and offer more saturated colors than traditional LCD panels. Samsung Electronics, Nokia Corp., and HTC Corp. have adopted AMOLED displays for new mobile handsets. AMOLED displays will gain more share as tablet PCs switch to the technology, likely this year.

“Display manufacturers are increasing their AMOLED manufacturing,” said Vinita Jakhanwal, director for small & medium displays at IHS, adding that “AMOLED is coming of age in 2012.

Samsung Mobile Display Co. currently drives the AMOLED market, with the largest manufacturing capacity. Also read: AMOLED display gives Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 the edge

LG Display Co. recently redirected its AMOLED focus away from mobile handsets toward the TV market, but it is still Samsung Mobile Display’s largest competitor.

Taiwanese and Chinese display suppliers are working to improve their competitive positioning, looking to challenge these leaders in AMOLED production and win orders from top handset makers. AU Optronics Corp. (Taiwan) has likely orders from handset manufacturer HTC and Sony, and should start shipping small volumes of AMOLED displays in Q2. AUO is reportedly planning for AMOLED production at a Gen 6 fab. ChiMei Innolux Corp. (Taiwan) should start AMOLED panel production in 2012.

In mobile phones, AMOLED prices increased 0.9 percent to an average of $54 in February, due to the introduction of new, higher-specification AMOLED displays. AMOLED commands price premium of 15 to 20% over comparable low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS) LCD displays with touch capabilities. A 4.3” QHD “Super” AMOLED display for mobile phones with an integrated on-cell touch solution, boasting QHD resolution at 960 by 540 pixels, was priced at $51 in January. A comparable LTPS LCD plus projected capacitive touch solution had a total price of $42. Prices could come down if AMOLED supply increased, although its performance advantages will help prevent price erosion.

In tablets, total average panel prices retreated 0.4% to $48.87, down from the January average of $49.06. AMOLED tablet displays, meanwhile, stayed at about $100. LG and Samsung remain the pre-eminent suppliers for the tablet PC display market, with high capacity and reliable shipments to Apple for its iPad, to Amazon for its Kindle, and to Samsung Electronics for its Galaxy Tab.

Learn more in Increased AMOLED Display Demand Preserves Premium Pricing from IHS iSuppli.

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