With Apple almost certain to use AMOLED for the future models of iPhone series, both panel makers and rival smartphone brands worldwide have also entered the race to invest in small- and mid-size AMOLED panels. The global production capacity of small- and mid-size AMOLED panels by area is projected to grow 16.5% annually to 5.9 million square meters in 2016, according to the latest data from WitsView, a division of TrendForce. The total capacity of small- and mid-size AMOLED panels will continue to expand to 14.4 million square meters in 2019, increasing at CAGR of 30% from 2015 through 2019.
SDC’s dominance in AMOLED panels for mobile devices will not be challenged in the short term due to technological barriers
“The panel maker that will certainly gain the most from this wave of AMOLED demand is Samsung Display (SDC), which has invested in this display technology for longer than its competitors,” said Boyce Fan, WitsView senior research manager. “The share of Samsung branded smartphones equipped with AMOLED panels has steadily grow each year. Also, China-based smartphone brands have significantly increased their adoption of the technology.”
Demand from Samsung and outside customers have helped raised the average capacity utilization rate for SDC’s AMOLED panel fabrication processes, from 75~80% in 2015 to about 90% and above this year. WitsView expects SDC to maintain high capacity utilization for it AMOLED processes up to the end of 2016. Furthermore, SDC is planning to expand its AMOLED capacity to meet with the anticipated huge demand from Apple.
The other major South Korean panel maker, LG Display (LGD), is following SDC’s footsteps and accelerating its schedule for increasing AMOLED capacity. The two large South Korean suppliers will account for 93% of the global capacity for small- and mid-size AMOLED panels this year, based on WitsView’s analysis. However, other panel makers will be able to mass produce AMOLED products later if they have succeeded in catching up to the South Korean suppliers in equipment investments and technological capabilities. Thus, SDC and LGD’s global share of small- and mid-size AMOLED panel capacity is estimated to contract to 71% by 2019, while the Chinese will expand their global share to 19% (assuming that they have achieved mass production). Also, the target application of this technology has gradually shifted to flexible display products. WitsView hence forecasts that flexible displays will take up 61% of the small- and mid-size AMOLED panel capacity worldwide.
“For many panel makers, the mass production of AMOLED products is being blocked by several major hurdles,” said Fan. “In the upstream, just a few companies control the source of manufacturing equipment such as the vapor deposition systems for mid- and small-size AMOLED panels. Besides, AMOLED is a very challenging technology, so new entrants to this market are likely to encounter a lot of problems when trying to maintain stable and high panel yields during the initial stages. In the short term, SDC will have absolute dominance in the small- and mid-size segments without rivals.”