Summer School for Buyers: Mobile OLED Displays

In the first few classes in EBN’s summer school for buyers, we’ve looked at the technology behind organic light emitting diode (OLED) and display driver integrated circuits (DDIC). Now, in this final installment, let’s talk about the end result of these technologies being leveraged: the displays themselves.  

OLED displays are becoming increasingly commonplace, representing a market with huge upside potential. Let’s take a look at the market for OLED displays.  

Mobile & Flexible OLED Display

A 9-inch or smaller panel display is classified as small to medium size and 9-inch or larger panels fit in the large category. Therefore, displays for mobile devices fall into the small-medium category. Traditionally, the OLED display market has been dominated by large displays, particularly TVs. In the fourth quarter of 2014, the large display segment recorded $19.7 billion revenue, whereas the small and medium display segment recorded $11.7 billion revenue – a difference of more than 50%.

However, the recent growth trend in mobile displays is reshaping the display market. The small and medium display sector hit $17.0 billion while the large display segment exceeded the $15.7 billion mark for the first time, according to market search firm IHS Markit, In the fourth quarter of 2017. Recently, as high- resolution and full-screen smartphones have hit volume production — and leading flagship products such as the Galaxy S, Galaxy Note, and iPhone X are adopting OLED panels — the mobile display market has begun to show hyper-growth.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9. Image courtesy: Samsung

Samsung Galaxy Note 9. Image courtesy: Samsung

Moreover, some analysts point to the replacement cycle of electronic products as accelerating the growth of smartphone displays. It is known that the smartphone replacement cycle is typically three years or less, while the TV replacement cycle averages eight to ten years. As a result, a ‘tornado effect’ hit the display market when comparing revenues and shipments of mobile phone and TV display., revenue of smartphone display hit $6.8 billion in 1Q 2014 and increased by almost a factor of two billion to $13.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017,according to IHS Markit. Meanwile, TV display revenue grew just slightly from $9.1 billion to $9.6 billion for the same period, the analyst said.

Flexible OLED for smartphone is now leading the growth of the mobile display market. According to IHS Markit AMOLED Industry Market Report, flexible OLED for smartphone hit $3.1 billion in 2016 and is expected to grow to $35.0 billion in 2020, an increase of 1,111%, with shipments during the same period growing from 40.3 million units to 411.8 million units, an increase of 1,020%.

This tremendous growth in the flexible OLED segment is directly attributable to product design changes in the intensely competitive smartphone market. Flexible OLED makes smartphones thinner and lighter and allows greater variety in “product shape.” For instance, the flexible OLED market is forecast to grow even faster as foldable and roll-able smartphones start to enter mass production in the not-too-distant future.

Market position

LCD DDIC suppliers have begun to develop OLED products but face significant challenges due to a lack of sufficient DDIC experience and design engineering expertise as well as the long-standing working relationships with the two leading OLED panel makers that happen to be located in Korea. Given the significant difference in OLED panel characteristics as compared to LCD, OLED DDIC will realize the best display quality only with the specialized intellectual property (IP) to a lower cost mass production capability, as well an optimized Analog IP and processes for chip size, power consumption, and electrostatic discharge (ESD). Further Samsung Display, which partners with Magnachip for OLED DDIC, is widely expected to lead the small and medium OLED display market for years to come, which will make it difficult for emerging players to establish a foothold.

Paul Kim,  vice president of marketing, Standard Products Group, MagnaChip Semiconductor Corp.,  co-authored this article.  Kim became vice president of marketing, Standard Products Group in December 2015. He joined MagnaChip in August 2011 and served as vice president of Display Design, Display Solutions Division. Prior to joining MagnaChip, Kim served as principal engineer of SOC & Display Driver IC Design Group of Samsung Electronics, where he worked from 1994 to 2010. Kim holds B.S degree in Electrical Engineering from Inha University, Korea.

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