As smartphones plunge, AMOLED displays rise

Samsung Galaxy Fold
Samsung's Galaxy Fold smartphone debuted last September, selling for nearly $2,000. It features a flexible AMOLED display. Foldable smartphones with flexbile displays are the main driver for growth of AMOLED. (Samsung)

Smartphone shipments are expected to plunge 13% in 2020 with COVID-19’s impact, but AMOLED smartphone displays will be up by 9%, according to analyst firm Omdia.

Shipments of AMOLED panels used for smartphones will soar to 513 million units this year, up from 471 million in 2019, Omdia said.  The main driver is demand for flexible AMOLED displays, fueled by foldable smartphones.

Smartphones will be hurt by lower consumer demand and supply chain problems amid the pandemic.

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The findings show how much AMOLED displays are expected to penetrate the market.  “Smartphone brands across the world increasingly are migrating their product lines to AMOLED display technology, even amidst the catastrophic market conditions spurred by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Brian Huh, an analyst for Omdia in a statement.

Apple is expected to expand its AMOLED iPhone lineup with three models in 2020, one more than in 2019.  The iPhone XS, at 5.8 inches and the iPhone XS Max  at 6.5-inches both run AMOLED.  The first Apple Watch made by LG Display in 2015 used a flexible AMOLED display.

Chinese smartphone makers are also expected to increase the number of high-end smartphones integrating AMOLED.

All this growth is entirely due to demand for flexble AMOLEDs, a subset that is expected to grow by 50% in 2020.  Demand for foldable smartphones is fueling this sales growth. Rigid AMOLED displays will be on the decline by 12% amid competition with alternative display technology called low-temperature polysilicon TFT LCD.  Foldables include the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip and Samsung Galaxy Fold, and the Motorola Razr.

AMOLED is an acronym for active-matrix organic light-emitting diode.  They produce light from individual pixels in a display, which usually means overall brightness is lower than with traditional LCDs (Liquid Crystal Displays) but Samsung was able to boost the brightness with Super AMOLED in Galaxy phones.

 LCD panels work by using banks of LEDs behind the pixels of an LCD display to provide the light that shines through the pixels. Experts have described the AMOLED displays as having nicer colors than LCDs, while colors with LCDs are considered flatter. A black-colored pixel in AMOLED is just in the off position, meaning it uses no power.

Samsung Display made 86% of the AMOLED displays in 2019, Omdia said, but others included LG Display, BOE, Visionox and Everdisplay.

Samsung as a smartphone maker increased use of AMOLEDs by 3% in 2019  reaching 194 million units. Meanwhile, panel shipments to Apple decreased by 24% to 56 million units.  Panel shipment in 2019 to Huawei and Xiaomi increased by 287% and 120% respectively, using AMOLEDs in their mid-range and high-end smartphones, Omdia said.

RELATED: Samsung’s foldable phone finally debuts

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