The global smartphone market is seeing slowing growth in the first half of 2017. Searching for ways to stimulate consumer demand, smartphone brands have put considerable efforts in improving displays of their devices. WitsView, a division of TrendForce, reports that increasing screen to body ratio and narrow bezel are two major trends in smartphone design for this year and are expected to drive changes in specifications of smartphone panels. Specifically, the display’s aspect ratio is moving from the mainstream 16:9 to 18:9 (2:1), which is also known as the full screen format. WitsView estimates that around 10% of smartphones shipped worldwide in 2017 will have displays with 18:9 or higher aspect ratios.
Boyce Fan, research director of WitsView, said that the global smartphone market gained some growth momentum in 2016 on account of a wave of replacement demand, but shipment growth has slowed down in the first half of 2017. “Device vendors’ inventories began to pile up in the first quarter of this year,” noted Boyce. “Furthermore, the Chinese market saw a reduction of smartphone purchase subsidies from domestic telecom operators. These factors are adversely affecting shipments.” Even though devices with AMOLED displays and the next iPhone release have generated market buzz, brands outside of Apple and Samsung are still waiting for more positive signs from consumers.
WitsView’s latest survey of this year’s smartphone lineup finds that first-tier brands have increased the display aspect ratio of their premium devices from 16:9 to 18:9. For instance, Samsung’s and LG’s respective flagship series Galaxy S8 and G6 both adopted the full screen format and narrow bezel design while removing the physical home button. Apple’s next premium iPhone model is also widely anticipated to have display of higher aspect ratio and a similar streamlined look. At the same time, changes made by major international brands to the displays of their flagship devices have also spurred Chinese brands to catch up.
WitsView’s latest research on the panel industry also indicates that most of the mass production and shipments of 18:9 smartphone panels will take place around this third to fourth quarter. As many smartphone brands are preparing to release their new models with 18:9 displays, they have started to scale back their demand for panels for 16:9 screens this second quarter.
Smartphone brands want to release new models with higher aspect ratio displays in the second half of 2017, when more 18:9 panels are available and new products devices benefit from the year-end busy season. Whether panel suppliers are able to provide sufficient supply of 18:9 smartphone panels to their clients is still uncertain. WitsView therefore expects Apple’s and Samsung’s premium devices will represent much of the full-screen smartphone shipments for 2017. Furthermore, models with 18:9 or higher aspect ratios are estimated to account for about 10% of the global smartphone shipments this year. The market penetration of full-screen models has a chance to increase significantly later in 2018, when most brands outside of Apple have made the transition to the 18:9 display. WitsView projects that about 37% of smartphones shipped worldwide in 2018 will have displays with 18:9 or higher aspect ratios.