AMOLEDs propel growth of small/medium display market

April 13, 2012 // By Julien Happich
After years of development, the market for active matrix organic light-emitting diodes (AMOLEDs) is moving into higher volumes, with shipments of the advanced screens to smartphones rising to a level where they can drive the growth of the entire small- and medium-sized display (SMD) market.

Total shipments of SMD panels used in products including mobile handsets, tablets and digital still cameras reached 186.8 million units in February, up 9 percent from 171.3 million units in January, according to an IHS iSuppli Small & Medium Displays PriceTrak report from information and analytics provider IHS. The increase brought to an end four straight months of shipment declines that started in October 2011, as shown in the figure below.

IHS defines SMDs as displays sized smaller than 10 inches diagonally. A rise in demand for AMOLED displays, coupled with increased orders from Chinese vendors, helped prevent what could have been a decline in shipments for the overall SMD market during a traditionally slow month for the market. AMOLED displays, lighter in weight and featuring more saturated colors compared to traditional LCD panels, have been gaining popularity in smartphones, with companies like Samsung Electronics, Nokia Corp. and HTC Corp. all selling mobile handsets that feature AMOLED displays.

Worldwide shipments of AMOLED mobile handset displays are expected to increase sequentially by 14 percent in the first quarter of this year and by 80 percent compared to the same time a year ago. The displays are set to gain further traction in the SMD space this year as the panels are adopted by other applications, like tablet PCs.

“Long considered a nascent technology, AMOLED is coming of age in 2012, with strong demand for the display from Android-based smartphones helping to drive the growth of the overall LCD-dominated SMD market,” said Vinita Jakhanwal, director for small & medium displays at IHS. “Display manufacturers are increasing their AMOLED manufacturing, making the new technology more available and allowing it to proliferate across a range of smartphone models from various brands.”

Samsung leads the AMOLED race

Samsung Mobile Display Co. currently drives the AMOLED market, because it has the largest manufacturing capacity.

The company's main competitor is LG Display Co., although LG Display recently