The state of AMOLED 2014 and beyond

January 16, 2014
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Flexible OLED Displasy Samsung CES 2014

Although it’s a contentious subject amongst smartphone enthusiasts, the multi-billion dollar AMOLED industry has been a driving force in smartphone display technology for the past few years.

Applications range from TVs to smartphones, and as a result, the AMOLED industry has been steadily growing since 2010. An astounding 500 million accumulated units had shipped by the end of 2013, due in no small part to the expansion of high-end smartphones using AMOLED for their display technology. And consumers seem to absolutely love them.

AMOLED Pojection Production IHS 2014-2105

However, with the top end of the market appearing ever more saturated, AMOLED technology may have to look to new markets to sustain its upward trajectory. Currently, just over 50% of AMOLED shipments come from high-specification smartphones. There’s also the threat of new more efficient technologies, such as PHOLED, replacing AMOLED as a high-spec choice.

KOREAN PANEL MARKETS ARE PRESENTLY DOMINATING THE AMOLED PANEL MARKET. NUMEROUS COMPANIES ARE STRIVING TO DEVELOP MORE ADVANCED AMOLED PANELS TO COMPETE WITH THE GOLIATH THAT IS SAMSUNG DISPLAY CO.

IHS has published its own forecasts and market insight into AMOLED which suggests a slight slump in shipment growth as demand for smartphone displays is fulfilled and competition increases. However, its forecast still looks very strong, with yearly shipments expected to triple to 600 million a year by 2018.

AMOLED shipments 2018

AMOLED shipment growth is predicted to slow over the next 5 years, although 20% a year is still very health.

Of course the demand for high-end smartphone displays isn’t going anywhere anytime soon; it’s more a matter of where future growth is going to come from. The first port of call is probably to scale the technology down to mid-range and low specification handsets, which are now the fastest growing sectors of the smartphone market. Even Samsung’s own mid-range products, like the Galaxy Ace line-up, opt for TFT LCDs over AMOLED, but this could change in the future.

If CES has shown us anything it’s that wearable technology is going to be big over the next couple of years, and AMOLED could find a new home in these smaller devices. 

samsung galaxy gear aa 8

Samsung’s Galaxy Gear features an AMOLED display and could be the first in a new market for AMOLED technology.

However, that would require a shift away from focusing on larger display manufacturing and could open up the market to some of the late comers. Chinese panel makers, including BOE, EDO, Tianma, and Visionox, are already setting up to mass produce small and medium sized AMOLED panels to meet domestic demand, and manufacturers in Japan and Taiwan are also poised to challenge Samsung’s market dominance.

AMOLED Panel production 2014 2015 Samsung LG Korea China Taiwan Japan InvestKorea

The AMOLED market could look very different if Samsung was removed from the throne, especially as other smartphone manufacturers wouldn’t have to buy from their biggest competitor. LG Display is expanding its 8.5G AMOLED production for the first time, and has already begun mass production as you read this, which will further intensify competition between the fiercely competitive South Korean rivals, which will not only yield great things for next generation smartphones, but also work in concert to keep the worlds most advanced AMOLED panel manufacturing in Korea for the foreseeable future. Another significant factor inhibiting latecomers in China and Japan is the need to infringing on AMOLED process manufacturing patents, of which Samsung and LG hold the lion share.

lg flexible display oled Credit: Yonhap

Looking forward, we also know that Samsung (as well as JDI and LG Display) are working on foldable AMOLED displays. Samsung will likely be the first company to market with such a technology, with the first devices expected to land sometime in 2015. AMOLED could well see another boom if flexible technology makes its way into smartphones or other portable devices. As we all know – the possibilities are endless.

Observe how after the Galaxy S4 hit the market how many 5 inch AMOLED panels were created. We can expect a similar trend to occur with the debut of the upcoming Galaxy S5 when it's released in the next few months.

Observe how after the Galaxy S4 hit the market how many 5 inch AMOLED panels were created. We can expect a similar trend to occur with the debut of the upcoming Galaxy S5 when it’s released in the next few months.

Another thing that remains to be seen is whether Samsung has been able to further refine their AMOLED manufacturing processes to be able to fit a 2560 x 1600/1440 pixel 5 inch+/- AMOLED display into their upcoming flagship, the upcoming Galaxy S5. They arguably have to to maintain their indisputable position of AMOLED display technological leadership, and to compete with their LCD counterparts, who have already begun mass producing such panels for devices like the upcoming 2560×1600 toting Oppo Find 7.

With plenty of new product markets on the horizon, it’s probably safe to bet on AMOLED being one of the top display technologies throughout 2014 and beyond. And how about you – do you prefer AMOLED to IPS-LCD displays? Had a chance to see the PHOLED display in the LG G Flex yet? Let us know down below!

With contributions from Darcy LaCouvee.

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