Market Insight

Smartphone AMOLED display trend shifts from rigid to flexible

March 20, 2018

Calvin Hsieh Calvin Hsieh Director, Touch and User Interface

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Following is information and insight from IHS Markit about the latest smartphone touch panel display market

While active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) displays are increasingly adopted for high-end and mid-range smartphones, a trend shift in the panel’s substrate type and touch sensor structure have been recognized, according to the latest Touch Panel Market Tracker Report by IHS Markit.

In 2017, shipments of flexible on-cell AMOLED display for mobile phone applications increased by 154 percent to 96.3 million units from 37.5 million units in 2016. During the same period, shipments of rigid on-cell AMOLED displays declined 31 percent to 213.5 million units from 307.2 million units. The main driver of the surge in flexible AMOLED panel shipments last year was Samsung Electronics, which applied flexible on-cell AMOLED displays to all its flagship models -- the Galaxy S and Note series.

Rigid on-cell AMOLED panels accounted for 14 percent of the total panel shipments for mobile phones in 2017, a significant drop from 20.2 percent in 2016. Share of flexible on-cell AMOLED displays was up to 6.3 percent in 2017 from 2.5 percent in 2016.

Even though the iPhone X uses a 5.85-inch flexible AMOLED panel, Apple did not adopt the mainstream on-cell touch sensor structure for the model. Apple has kept using GF2, the same touch sensor structure it uses in the iPad series. GF2 has a film substrate with double-sided indium tin oxide (ITO) sensor patterned, right below the cover glass. But Samsung Display and LG Display put the film substrate beneath the display’s polarizer. On account of Apple, GF2 immediately took 3.6 percent of the total panel shipments for mobile phones. According to IHS Markit, shipments of all flexible AMOLED displays, including on-cell touch and GF2 type, accounted for 9.9 percent in 2017, up from 2.5 percent in 2016.

Samsung Display, a leader in AMOLED display production, should speed up the transition to flexible AMOLED display to compete with Chinese panel makers that are expanding capacity fast. Flexible AMOLED technology has become a critical differentiation for Samsung Display as well as mobile phone brands’ high-end models. Despite the two different touch sensor structures, applied to the flexible AMOLED panel, both are expected to keep growing.

Following Samsung Display, LG Display started producing flexible on-cell AMOLED displays in 2017. The company shipped less than 3 million units in 2017, but its future growth is highly expected.

The Touch Panel Market Tracker Report by IHS Markit provides a variety of in-depth analyses on the touch panel market, including touch user interface technology, market dynamic and emerging trends.

Research by Market
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