Samsung Display is the dominant AMOLED display supplier, especially for mobile phone applications. In 2012, Samsung climbed to the top supplier position in terms of small-medium displays (9” and smaller) overall, thanks to strong growth in AMOLED display shipments, according to the latest Quarterly Small/Medium Shipment and Forecast Report. Samsung Display led in small-medium AMFPD (Active Matrix Flat Panel Display, including AMOLED, a-Si TFT LCD, LTPS TFT LCD, and active matrix electrophoretic displays) shipments. In addition, small-medium AMOLED revenues nearly doubled, from $3.5 billion in 2011 to $6.8 billion in 2012, led by strong growth in 4.3”, 4.8”, 5.3” and 5.5” AMOLED mobile phone panels, allowing Samsung to take the top position in small-medium revenues as well, breaking the long-term dominance of Japanese panel suppliers.
Samsung Display is not only shipping small-medium AMOLEDs panels, but also many TFT LCD panels for mobile phone, mostly a-Si TFT for mid- and low- end handsets. But the higher ASPs of AMOLED displays compared to TFT LCDs is the key enabler for Samsung Display to take the top position in revenues. Also, looking at the top two smartphones, there are three iPhone panel suppliers (Sharp, JDI and LG Display), but only one supplier for the Galaxy S series: Samsung Display.
According to the Quarterly Small/Medium Shipment and Forecast Report, in Q4’12, the average price of a 4.3” qHD (960×540) TFT LCD panel was under $23, but over $33 for AMOLEDs with the same specifications. Furthermore, the average price for a 4.7” HD (1280×720) LTPS TFT LCD panel is $36, while a 4.8” HD AMOLED is over $50.
Samsung has nurtured AMOLED displays as an important differentiator in mobile devices, especially the Galaxy line (Note and Phone), and the strategy has resulted in AMOLED displays being associated with a premium market position compared to standard TFT LCD in smartphones. Also, the fact that the AMOLED displays integrate touch functionality into the panel (through on-cell) helps hold up ASP.
As Samsung’s Galaxy phone adds advanced features and puts pressure on other mobile phone brands, Samsung’s AMOLED dominance pressures other smart phone panel manufacturers. Clearly Samsung wants to utilize its AMOLED strength in larger screen applications like Tablet PC, and of course TV. Samsung had previously launched a 7.7”AMOLED tablet PC, and as we noted, the launch of the Galaxy S4 has proved Samsung’s capability to increase AMOLED resolution to more than 400ppi. With the tablet PC mainstream shifting to 7-8”, portrait-mode compliance with slim bezel, and lower power consumption with high color gamut, AMOLED displays may have a competitive advantage. Of course, the role of OLED in TV will take a longer time due to the challenges of large size OLED production. But it is likely that AMOLED can have a more near-term influence on tablet PCs. This would enable Samsung to extend its success in the smartphone field, and potentially to maintain its position as the largest small-medium display maker.