In 2023, driven by the demand from the repair market and the surge in the second-hand smartphone trend, the shipment volume of smartphone panels is expected to increase by 8.7% to reach an estimated 1.85 billion units. According to further estimates by TrendForce, the demand for panels from the repair market alone is projected to reach 300 million units, accounting for 16.2% of the overall shipment volume.
Playing a crucial role in the smartphone repair market is undoubtedly the iPhone.
TrendForce analysis reveals that half of the smartphone repair market size comes from the Chinese market, with approximately half of that market size originating from the repair of iPhone second-hand devices. When examining the iPhone repair market, models from 1 to 2 years prior to the current year play a pivotal role in meeting demand.
From a component perspective, the prices of TDDI for repair purposes generally tend to be slightly higher compared to those offered to brand customers, with a premium ranging from about 5-10%. However, these prices can exhibit more significant fluctuations based on market conditions, including increased pricing during shortages and more room for price adjustments in times of oversupply.
Regarding panel supply, Chinese panel manufacturers, rather than Taiwanese counterparts, dominate the repair market supply due to easier access to the South China market.
The specifications for repair panels are relatively diverse, with HD/FHD and OLED panels being used in the repair market. Notably, the A-si 900RGB specification, positioned between HD (1280×720) and Full HD (1920×1080), faces slow adoption in the new product market by smartphone brand customers. Consequently, panel manufacturers are prioritizing supply to the repair market. The primary aim of this supply strategy is to focus on iPhone repairs, providing a broader range of specifications and price combinations for iPhone repair services.
According to a report by TechNews, it’s widely known that Apple has been quietly working on a not-so-secretive project known as “Project Titan,” which is centered around the development of the Apple Car. As per Autoevolution, the Apple Car might become the first vehicle to feature a Micro LED display. At the same time, TrendForce’s latest research indicates that Micro LED displays are set to become widely adopted in the automotive industry during the latter half of this century.
However, the exact unveiling date of the Apple Car remains unconfirmed. The most recent speculation suggests that this electric vehicle model could be launched in 2025 or 2026.
Apple has long aimed to incorporate Micro LED technology into its products. Initially, it was thought that the Apple Watch would be the first Apple product to adopt a Micro LED display. However, due to supply chain adjustments, the transition of the Apple Watch from OLED to Micro LED might be delayed until 2026, while Apple initially planned to introduce Micro LED technology to its watches by 2025.
Although the timeline for Micro LED introduction in the Apple Watch has been pushed to 2026, that year might witness widespread Micro LED adoption across various Apple products, including headsets, smartphones, and automotive applications.
Once Micro LED technology finds its way into the Apple Car, it’s expected to trigger emulation within the automotive industry, leading to the widespread integration of Micro LED technology in future vehicle models. TrendForce suggests that car manufacturers in Europe, America, and Japan show considerable enthusiasm for adopting Micro LED.
But what benefits does Micro LED bring to automotive applications? It’s understood that Micro LED can reduce power consumption, enhance brightness, and offer reliability. Considering the significant performance improvements and the push toward electric vehicles, once Micro LED’s benefits are demonstrated in automotive contexts, car manufacturers are expected to embrace it on a large scale.
However, the exact launch date of the Apple Car remains uncertain. While there were earlier speculations of a possible 2025 release, insiders now suggest Apple has pushed the launch to 2026. Though Apple initially had ambitious goals for Project Titan, the first Apple Car might adopt a more traditional design than initially envisioned, including features like a steering wheel and pedals.
Rumors suggest Apple’s ultimate goal for the Apple Car is to transform the cabin into a living room-like environment, with the aim of removing the steering wheel and pedals to achieve full self-driving capabilities. However, the initial Apple Car might showcase limited autonomous driving features and share design similarities with existing Tesla models.
Based on a recent analysis by TrendForce, LG Display is encountering a challenge with its supply of 6.7-inch panels and chassis for the iPhone 15 Pro Max. The issue revolves around tolerance, leading to the development of a growing dark spot (GDS) once the components are assembled. Unfortunately, this problem has hindered the successful passage of quality verification tests. Consequently, LGD’s production timeline is anticipated to face a one-month delay, awaiting the resumption of shipments following the completion of revalidation later this month. To manage the reduced panel supply during this interim period, Samsung Display (SDC) will step in and provide supplementary support.
From the standpoint of downstream assembly facilities, the adjustments in supply have the potential to impact production operations in Zhengzhou for approximately two weeks. It’s projected that by ramping up production subsequently, these effects can be mitigated.
On a different note, BOE has successfully achieved its goal for this year by participating in the development of panels for both the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus. However, owing to recent quality concerns necessitating mask adjustments, they might encounter a significant decrease in shipments. Simultaneously, since SDC is a key supplier for these two new models as well, they will step up to fill the void created by BOE’s supply shortfall.
Taking a historical perspective on BOE’s involvement in supplying iPhone panels, their journey began with the iPhone 12, providing components for repairs, and subsequently transitioning into regular supply for the iPhone 13. Their prowess in LTPS and OLED technology has been acknowledged. However, with the introduction of the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus models, which incorporate the Dynamic Island design featuring a center-hole punch, the demands placed on the panels have become more stringent. The alteration in mask design is likely a pivotal factor that requires additional time for BOE to optimize panel yield and quality.
TrendForce underscores that the issue pertaining to panel quality only marginally affects the overarching shipping schedule for the iPhone 15 series. Its main consequence lies in the reshuffling of panel suppliers, while SDC continues to assert its dominance as the primary supplier of new model iPhone panels this year, accounting for nearly 70% of the market share.
IT panel industry is expected to see a peak season in the second half of the year. Indicators such as channel inventory and brand inventory have improved from the slump last year, and a rebound in demand can be expected in the second half of the year. However, commercial IT panels are being purchased quite cautiously due to high inflation and economic uncertainties, while consumer IT panels can be expected to perform better.
In the display sector, there has been an observed increase in prices for gaming monitors, but it is unlikely to see a large-scale replenishment like in the TV market due to sufficient supply of IT panels and increasing production capacity in China. There is limited room for a significant price increase, but consumer displays may experience a small rebound, unlike commercial displays.
As for TVs, it is expected that the cost of production will surpass cash cost in May and June, leading panel manufacturers to increase their production rates. The extent of this increase will be crucial, as it could potentially drive panel prices higher or stall the price increase altogether. Production increase poses a significant uncertainty for supply and price hikes, with the third quarter remaining a key period that will depend on demand. If China returns to cash levels, higher production rates could be a potential risk.
According to TrendForce, global panel manufacturers had a production capacity utilization rate of around 67%-68% in the first quarter, which is expected to increase to 73%-74% in the second quarter. The third quarter is conservatively estimated to reach utilization rate of nearly 80%.
China Dominates the LCD Market
As Samsung and LG Display gradually withdraw from the LCD market, Chinese panel manufacturers continue to expand their market share. This year, the global shipment volume for TV panels is expected to reach 70% market share.
According to TrendForce’s latest panel price analysis, due to the low inventory level of panel manufacturers and the strategy of maintaining production regulation, the overall supply and demand of TV panels have reached balance. With the strengthening of the stocking momentum for TV panels in China, the price increase trend of TV panels in April can still continue, but the price difference between first-tier and second-tier brand customers is relatively large.
Second-tier brand customers mostly can only accept the price increase of the panel manufacturers, while first-tier brand customers still have a certain degree of bargaining space. Looking at the TV panel prices in April, all sizes have maintained an upward trend, with 32 inches expected to increase by 1USD, 43 inches by 3USD, 50 inches by 6 USD, 55 inches by 7~8 USD, 65 inches by 13USD, and 75 inches by 10~11 USD. With this price increase trend, TV panel prices may have a chance to return to the cash cost level in May.
After the monitor panel prices stabilized in March, there are currently signs of strengthening demand for some consumer models, including high-end gaming monitors and some entry-level affordable ones. This is partly due to downstream customers replenishing inventory demand, and also preparing for the upcoming 618 promotion in China. Therefore, it is expected that the full-size monitor panel prices in April will remain stable.
Turning to notebook panel, Chromebook demand has rebounded in Q2, but other mainstream models are still affected by brand customers’ inventory destocking, leading to no clear increase yet. Therefore, notebook panel prices in April are expected to remain stable, with potential for increase depending on the timing of inventory destocking and demand momentum.