According to the latest analysis from the WitsView research division of TrendForce, the share of devices featuring AMOLED panels is expected to grow from 32.8% in 2019 to 38.0% in 2020 in the global smartphone marketplace, in response to an ever-increasing production capacity and smartphone makers' willingness to adopt the technology. In contrast, the market share of LTPS-equipped devices is expected to drop from 41.3% down to 38.6%. The market shares for AMOLED- and LTPS-equipped devices are roughly even, with the former possibly taking the lead in the future.
Boyce Fan, research director at TrendForce, argues that AMOLED panels are able to establish dominance in the high-end smartphone market because of increased adoption by smartphone makers, owing to Samsung Display's successful pricing strategies; furthermore, AMOLED is the only panel technology that enables integration of under-display fingerprint sensors. Aside from Samsung and Apple, the largest smartphone makers in China are aggressively incorporating AMOLED panels into their product lines, in turn accelerating the expansion of Chinese panel manufacturers' AMOLED production capabilities.
Most of China's growing AMOLED production capacity is dedicated to flexible AMOLED panels. As a result, Samsung Display controls the vast majority of global rigid AMOLED production. The maturity of rigid AMOLED technology, combined with its superior cost and yield, makes it Samsung's weapon of choice in the fight for market shares, with the implication of reduced mid-range and high-end smartphone LTPS panel shares. TrendForce holds the opinion that, given the constant production capacity of rigid AMOLED panels, should demand increase in 2020, the supply and demand of rigid AMOLED panels will present a balanced or slightly tight market, since Chinese flexible AMOLED production is as of yet uncompetitive.
On the other hand, LTPS panels, which once occupied the mid-range and high-end smartphone segments, are now facing an adverse market economy stemming from hypercompetitive prices. As such, profit margins are significantly reduced for panel manufacturers. However, with bezel-less phones becoming the norm in 2019, production speed for Dual Gate TDDI-equipped a-Si HD In-Cell panels is failing to match projected figures. This creates a point of market entry for LTPS panels and an incentive to transform production capacity towards the development of LTPS HD devices, in turn making up for lost high-end market shares in the low-end and mid-range markets. As well, LTPS manufacturers without a reliable customer base are starting to adapt by closing down non-essential production lines and moving towards non-smartphone applications of LTPS panels to alleviate pressure from reduced LTPS demand caused by competition from AMOLED makers.
TrendForce projects a growth in the demand for flexible AMOLED panels, which will effect a further increase in the global market shares of AMOLED-equipped smartphones. In contrast, rigid AMOLED panels have limited growth potential due to supply limitations. It remains to be seen whether LTPS panels can fill the gap left by unfulfilled demand for rigid AMOLED panels, and whether this allows LTPS supply and demand to reach a healthy equilibrium.