OLED Volumes Up, but So Are Prices

The production of organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays has finally reached volumes where it is driving growth of the small to mid-sized screen market, according to IHS iSuppli. Small to mid-sized displays (SMD) are those with a diagonal measurement of 10 inches or less.

As demand and prices of LCDs have dropped, display makers are turning toward higher-priced, higher-value technologies such as OLED. One of the issues that has been holding OLED back has been production volumes. “Display manufacturers are increasing their AMOLED manufacturing, making the new technology more available and allowing it to proliferate across a range of smartphone models from various brands,” said Vinita Jakhanwal, director for small and medium displays at HIS, in a press release.

Overall, according to IHS iSuppli, “total shipments of SMDs used in products including mobile handsets, tablets, and digital still cameras reached 186.8 million units in February, up 9 percent from 171.3 million units in January.” Worldwide shipments of AMOLED mobile handset displays are expected to increase by 14 percent in Q1 2012 compared with Q4 2011, and by 80 percent compared to the same time a year ago.

However, a lack of competition in the OLED market keeps prices high. There are still few major players in OLED. Samsung Mobile Display Co., a division separate from the recently formed Samsung Display, has the largest OLED manufacturing capacity, according to IHS iSuppli:

    The company’s main competitor is LG Display Co., although LG Display recently redirected its AMOLED focus away from mobile handsets toward the TV market. Meanwhile, Taiwanese and Chinese suppliers are working to improve their competitive positioning in hopes of catching up with Samsung and LG in AMOLED production. Taiwanese supplier AU Optronics Corp. is making particularly strong progress, with likely orders from handset manufacturer HTC and Sony. AU Optronics is expected to start shipping small volumes of AMOLED displays starting in the second quarter, and is apparently planning for AMOLED production at a sixth-generation fab. Fellow Taiwanese manufacturer ChiMei Innolux Corp. is also anticipated to start AMOLED panel production sometime this year. All told, Taiwan’s success in the AMOLED display market will be dependent on the capability of its suppliers to obtain orders from top-tier smartphone makers like Nokia, HTC and Sony.

In the meantime, OLED prices are increasing instead of falling. In mobile phones, OLEDs command prices of between $51 and $54, IHS iSuppli reports, with a comparable LCD priced around $42.

9 comments on “OLED Volumes Up, but So Are Prices

  1. _hm
    April 17, 2012

    Is iPad display AMOLED? Also large screen LG TV with AMOLED display will be wonderful to watch.


  2. tioluwa
    April 18, 2012

    It always a battle a technology emergies, but before it can take root, another one comes to overtake it.

    Technically speaking, the AMOLED is an active matrix implementation of the OLED display technology which allows for largy displays which means the AMOLED implementation of OLED is likely to surpass the basic OLED.

    iPad however uses LCD with IPS technology to improve its viewing angle and picture quality

  3. Himanshugupta
    April 18, 2012

    “Lack of competition is keeping OLD price high”…could be possible due to the niche nature and the difficult production procedure but i did not understand the reason for higher price as the volume goes up. My premise is that the manufacturers, who have shown the capability of high volume manufacturing can command a higher price due to lack of competition. Then it would be a goldmine for the manufacturers as the profit margins are already high.

  4. Daniel
    April 18, 2012

    Tioluwa, Thanks for clarify the distinction between these two. What about the energy consumption rate in AMOLED? By clarity wise which one is good? Any idea, why companies are not extensively using the AMLOED and OLED for display.

  5. Barbara Jorgensen
    April 18, 2012

    @Himanshu: Normally you would see prices decline as volumes go up. But when there is little or no competition in the market, a vendor would be crazy to discount prices as long as they are able to command a premium. The other factor working in OLED's favor is demand: customers want them and so far are willing to pay top dollar. Until LG really ramps up, or OLED makers in China start coming out with less expensive products, prices will stay high.

  6. Barbara Jorgensen
    April 18, 2012

    @hm: The iPad display is an LCD technology developed and patented by Apple. The pixels are packed more closely together so the definition is fantastic. However, I've heard that this, combined with 4G capability, sucks the battery life of the iPad very quickly. Battery life is one of the issues OLED seeks to address.

  7. elctrnx_lyf
    April 19, 2012

    It just makes me wonder why the prices of AMOLED displays are going up suddenly. May be basically the OLED displays may be costlier than the normal TFT LCD displays. It would be interesting watch how taiwanese companies will compete with samsung and LG in the AMOLED race.

  8. Barbara Jorgensen
    April 19, 2012

    @electrynx: I apologize if I implied the prices went up “suddenly:” OLED prices have always been high relative to LCD. In fact, the lower LCD prices go, the more contrast–pun intended–there is with LCDs.

    If OLED reaches its manufactuing potential, they should ultimately become extremely competitive price-wise. But I think that is a long way off. The rampup/rampdown of LCD prices took longer than anyone anticipated and it has only been in recent years that LCDs have lost their appeal to manufacturers. LCD has largely become a commodity product.

  9. syedzunair
    April 19, 2012


    I agree, LCD's have lost their appeal and LED's will pave the way for the future. Eventhough the prices are high currently as compared to the LCD's in due time they will reach competitive levels. 

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