AMOLED panels may be the highest sought after displays worldwide, especially in the smartphone segment; but their limited availability has worried many smartphone OEMs. That said, the second largest smartphone manufacturer, Apple, has stayed clear of AMOLED panels by opting for LCD IPS displays for their iPhones and iPads. This trend may soon change, as initial reports claim that the Cupertino giant may indeed opt for AMOLED panels for their next generation devices including the iPhone 8 and upcoming iPads.
With Apple entering the AMOLED market, the demand for such panels would increase by manifold. It would further put pressure on the already pressurized supply line of a handful of AMOLED display makers. Samsung, LG and JDI are the major suppliers of these high contrast AMOLED smartphone panels worldwide. Among them, Samsung may go into a co-operation with Apple to supply their Super AMOLED panels exclusively to the Cupertino firm. Currently, the Korean company supplies their panels to a number of manufacturers worldwide including the likes of OnePlus and Xiaomi. So with Apple tieing up with Samsung, the supply of panels to these Chinese companies would be put to a halt.
Considering the possible move, the leading Chinese smartphone OEMs including Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and BBK have decided to form a consortium with China-based flexible display maker, Royole. This would include the OEMs and Royole making a joint investment in a local flexible AMOLED production center in 2017. With the expected worldwide crunch in supply of AMOLED panels, these Chinese smartphone brands have already started opting for locally supplied AMOLED panels for their devices.
Apart from that, one of the largest Chinese smartphone firm, BBK, which apparently owns Oppo, OnePlus and Vivo has already established an independent subsidiary to focus on manufacturing AMOLED panels. The firm plans to increase the monthly capacity of the subsidiary to produce at least 60,000 AMOLED panels within the time frame of 2017-2019. Royole, on the other hand, which is also a part of the Chinese consortium is reported to expand its AMOLED capacity to 45,000 units in 2017 and 2018. It is also reported that Royole plans to establish new 5.5G production lines in Shenzhen, China next year.
Analysts report that the demand for AMOLED panels will peak somewhere around 2018-2020 and will soon reach a threshold point. These consortiums between Chinese brands may, however, help them build an exclusive supply line of their own. It would be interesting to see whether the likes of Xiaomi and Lenovo become a part of the consortium.