Smartphone displays are a complicated industry. LCD and OLED have both been improving at a rapid pace, but the supply side of the equation matters. Even though OLED is regarded as the technologically superior solution, it still hasn’t completely replaced LCD because of various issues, the most critical being a shortage of supply.
Samsung is said to have supplied 50 million OLED panels to Apple for the iPhone X, and this number is expected to increase in 2018. Now, a Digitimes report states that China-based smartphone vendors including Xiaomi, Huawei, and Oppo are planning to adopt mini LED-backlit panels as an alternative to AMOLED for smartphones launched in the second half of 2018. It adds that that the vendors have asked Taiwan-based makers to start producing mini LED-backlighting in June 2018.
The reason for the mass adoption of mini LED-backlit panels is that vendors are speculating Apple might source AMOLED panels for its 2018 iPhone models, which will constrain Samsung Display’s AMOLED supply.
Digitimes added that the number of mini LED chips for 6-inch smartphone panels could decrease from 9,000 to 4,000 through technological improvement and product design, which will cut production cost and increase the willingness of smartphone vendors to adopt mini LED-backlighting.
According to Epistar, the largest Taiwan-based epitaxial wafer and a chip maker poised to produce mini LED chips, an increase in mini LED-backlighting shipments 15 million smartphones in 2018 — equivalent to 1 percent penetration — would boost global demand to 60 billion chips in the year, which is equivalent to 100,000 mini LED epitaxial wafers monthly. Epistar also noted that production of mini LED-backlighting for smartphones and TVs is likely to begin in the second half of this year, and specifications will be decided in the first half.
The report’s based on unnamed sources which might be incorrect, of course. However, it shows the supply ramifications of Apple’s decision to go all-in with OLED on the iPhone X. As we’ve explored in the past, a lack of competition in the OLED industry is leading to searches for alternatives such as LG’s P-OLED displays.
Here’s hoping that competition increases in the display manufacturing industry, so that more smartphones can be equipped with great displays.