“Turn the brightness of the phone to the brightest, and watch a row of numbers from dark to bright on a black background. The darkest number that can be seen clearly represents the top screen, and the brighter number in the middle represents a better quality screen. The bright numbers represent ordinary screens…” Have you “self-tested” your OLED mobile phone screens in this way?
Regardless of whether the method is scientific or not, this “self-test” represents consumers’ attention to mobile phone screens. Today, Samsung Display and LGD still take the lead in the field of mobile phone OLED panels. What is gratifying is that domestic panel manufacturer BOE has also entered Apple’s supply chain, and in 2020, Chinese panel manufacturers will have close to 20% of the AMOLED smartphone panel market. . The strength of domestic panel makers has been recognized to a certain extent, but in some respects it still needs to accelerate the “catch-up”.
Competitive strength on the same platform is verified
Open the latest supplier list on Apple’s official website, BOE is on the list, and Samsung Display and LGD also exist. It is reported that BOE has already supplied OLED panels to the iPhone 12 series in December last year, and is currently preparing for the supply of iPhone 13.
An industry insider said: “BOE is also actively expanding its business scale while increasing the yield rate,” adding that “compared to Samsung products, BOE’s product supply unit price is lower.” The overall description of OLED performance indicators, quality control, and supply The capabilities have reached the strict requirements of Apple’s supply chain, and they have the ability to compete with Samsung on the same stage in technology, process, and production management.
Zhong Haoyi, CEO of UBI Research, said that in addition to domestic panel makers that can produce OLED products close to Samsung Display, there are government subsidies that make China’s OLED price only 60% of Samsung Display.
Wu Shuyuan, senior analyst of Sigmaintell mobile phone panel research, said in an interview with a reporter from “China Electronics News” that more mobile phone brands are importing domestic panels, indicating that the quality of the products has been recognized by the terminal and the technical strength has been certified; The second is that the production capacity can meet the needs of customers and stable delivery.
BOE has recently been very active in entering the flexible OLED market. In addition to entering the “Apple chain”, BOE also exclusively supplies the OLED panel of Huawei’s latest folding screen mobile phone Mate X2, which “replaces” the previous Samsung Display supply. According to market forecasts, LG Electronics’ rollable mobile phones will join hands with BOE, and it can be seen that BOE’s product competitiveness has improved quite rapidly.
In terms of production capacity, BOE stated in an investor question that as the two 6-generation flexible AMOLED production lines in Chengdu and Mianyang progress smoothly and shipments are steadily increasing, the company will continue to expand more product series for brand customers. A 6th-generation flexible AMOLED production line can correspond to 60 to 70 million mainstream mobile phone products at full production throughout the year, and the mainstream flexible AMOLED product size is 5.5 inches and above.
Add “variables” to the competition
The industry predicts that in 2021, Apple’s iPhone shipments will increase by more than 60%, reaching 160 to 180 million units. With the further strengthening of the iPhone boom, Apple may further deepen the competition among suppliers in order to ensure the number of panels. BOE is expected to supply the OLED panels of the iPhone 13 series to be released this year, which will become the biggest variable in the ongoing “Apple competition” between Korean panel suppliers Samsung Display and LGD.
According to RUNTO’s estimates, starting from the iPhone 13 series that will be released this fall, Apple will carry out thin-film transistor (TFT) LTPO conversion for some products such as Pro and Max. To this end, LGD is building an LTPO production line at its E6 plant in Paju, Gyeonggi, which produces flexible OLEDs, with an initial investment of 5,000 pieces and an additional 20,000 pieces within the year.
At the same time, it is discussing a plan to convert the Gumi E5 plant in Gumi, North Gyeongsang Province to a dedicated iPhone production line in order to cope with the increase in Apple purchases. However, LGD’s LTPO panel level still has a certain gap compared with Samsung Display, so it may be supplied from next year. Samsung Display has applied LTPO TFT to Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, S21 Ultra, etc. Based on this experience, Apple is very likely to exclusively purchase iPhone 13 Pro or Max panels from it.
Samsung Display will provide 140 million OLED panels to Apple this year, an increase of about 20 million over the previous year. LGD shipped about 20 million units through the iPhone 12 series last year and is expected to increase to 40 million units this year. The industry chain generally believes that BOE expects to supply 10 million OLED panels to Apple, accounting for 5.5% of the market. RUNTO research believes that although the change of LTPO is beneficial to Korean panel suppliers, now that BOE has entered the Apple supply chain, it is expected to take over LTPO orders from next year at the latest, keeping pace with LGD.
Industry insiders told reporters that for a considerable period of time, Samsung Display will still have the industry’s strongest technology and supply capabilities. Therefore, taking Apple as an example, it will continue to hand over orders for the highest specifications to Samsung Display, and a small part to LGD. BOE may mainly supply some low-profile models. With the continuous growth of BOE technology in the future, this situation will change.
The share of Chinese panel makers continues to increase
In 2020, mid-to-high-end models such as Huawei Nova start to adopt flexible AMOLED technology. OPPO, Vivo, Xiaomi, and Honor will increase the proportion of flexible AMOLED panels used in flagship models, and Apple will adopt flexible AMOLED technology and expand to all iPhone 12 series.
Qunzhi Consulting data shows that in 2020, global OLED smartphone panel shipments (open-cell caliber) are 490 million, an increase of 5.6% year-on-year; among them, hard-screen OLED shipments are 245 million, down 15.8% year-on-year; flexible OLED shipments are 246 million. A year-on-year increase of 41.6%.
In terms of subregions, with the gradual release of domestic OLED panel factories’ production capacity, the market share of domestic OLED panel factories has gradually increased. In 2020, about 88 million pieces will be shipped, an increase of 60% year-on-year, and the market share is close to 20%.
Among them, BOE ranks second in the world and first in China with 36 million shipments. Visionox ranks fourth in the world and second in China with 21 million shipments. Visionox has also received flexible orders from Huawei, Honor, and other brands in 2021, and its flexible production line will fully support the needs of brand customers. With the increasing recognition of domestic OLED panel technology capabilities by brand manufacturers, it is expected that domestic OLED panel manufacturers will also receive more brand orders in the future.
In addition to productivity, technological iteration is also an indispensable element. Domestic OLED manufacturers have their own strengths in technology, and they are quick to follow and innovate new technologies. However, their mass production transformation ability is still lacking compared with Samsung Display. Manufacturers who can transfer new technologies to mass production as soon as possible will get more output. Opportunities to obtain a higher market share.
Xu Fengying, vice president of Visionox Technology Co., Ltd., said that there are three major aspects of AMOLED technological innovation. One is the optimization of basic capabilities such as COP packaging, Oncell-Metal Mesh, high refresh rate, low power consumption, and long life. The second is material innovation and 3D. Form innovations such as lamination, hyperboloid right-angle lamination, and four-curve lamination. The third is AA area punching, under-screen camera, screen sound, touch integration, under-screen fingerprints, and other technology integration.
Wu Shuyuan suggested that in the field of OLED mobile phones, firstly bind large customers to achieve stable mass production orders, and then continue to innovate, including morphological innovations such as folding and curling, and micro-innovations such as LTPO.
In addition, from the perspective of the supply chain, panel makers need to be wary of the risk of demand fluctuations in the second half of the year caused by the forward movement of terminal demand for the downstream; for the upstream, they need to be wary of the rapid increase in the prices of core components such as driver ICs, OLED DDICs, and so on, causing demand and price fluctuations. . (Home appliance headlines)