Foldable phones experience strong growth in China


Visitors discover a foldable smartphone using OLED technology at an exhibition in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. [Photo/China Daily]

The foldable smartphone market is poised to experience rapid growth in China, as major domestic display manufacturers increase flexible display production capabilities along with technology maturity and cost reductions, said industry analysts.

Shipment of local organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels used in smartphones is expected to increase from 95 million units in 2021 to around 160 million in 2022, said Chen Jun, vice president and chief analyst at Sigmaintell Consulting, a Beijing company. based market research firm.

Domestic flexible OLED panels will account for about 37-38% of the global total this year, a 10% increase on an annual basis, Chen said, adding that the prices of foldable phones would likely drop to between 5,000 yuan ($ 784.5). and 6,000 yuan in 2022, given the growing maturity of the local supply chain.

In December, Huawei Technologies Co unveiled the P50 Pocket, its latest foldable handset, which when folded can be stored in a wallet.

The move came after Chinese smartphone maker Oppo unveiled its first Find N foldable flagship smartphone. Priced at 7,699 yuan, the phone can serve as a tablet when fully opened and becomes a phone when closed. . Other domestic players such as Xiaomi and Vivo are also gearing up to launch foldable phones.

Chinese handset producers aim to take a bigger share in the premium phone segment by launching foldable models. Phones featuring innovative and diverse appearances, such as curved and stretched screens, could be launched at the future, ”Chen said.

“The penetration rate of OLED panels in the mobile market is expected to reach 42% this year,” Chen said, adding that apart from foldable displays, the production costs of hinges, a mechanical design that allows flexible panels to stand. fold and unfold. and the ultra-thin glass cover plates are still relatively tall. Maturing supply chains will lower these costs.

A report by market research firm Counterpoint Research said shipping of foldable smartphones is expected to reach around 9 million units in 2021, a three-fold increase from 2020. The consulting firm expects to a tenfold increase in foldable smartphone shipments in 2023.

If Apple Inc is on track to launch its foldable smartphone by 2023, it will not only be an inflection point in adopting the foldable model, but will also improve performance and component scale for it. the entire supply chain, he added.

The foldable phone market is gaining momentum with the exploration of cell phone manufacturers in the premium smartphone segment. Actors are stepping up efforts in eye-catching innovative designs to further harness growing consumer demand for wearable products during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Amber Liu, research analyst at Canalys, another market research firm.

With the advent of foldable smartphones, the demand for displays using flexible active matrix organic light-emitting diode, or AMOLED, technology is also booming.

Domestic display panel suppliers, such as BOE Technology Group Co Ltd, Visionox Technology Inc and TCL China Star Optoelectronics Technology Co Ltd, are multiplying flexible displays mainly used in smartphones to break the monopoly of South Korean companies in the industry.

BOE has three flexible sixth generation AMOLED production lines. It started mass production of flexible panels in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, in October 2017. The panels have been used by more than 10 smartphone manufacturers.

The company’s second production line in Mianyang, Sichuan Province began mass production in 2019. Its third factory in Chongqing reached mass production last month, with a total investment of 46.5 billion yuan.

Xu Fengying, vice president of Visionox, said the company has been supplying AMOLED technology for Xiaomi Corp’s under-display camera since June 2019. Xiaomi’s prototypes of foldable phones also used OLED display panels from Visionox.

In addition, TCL CSOT’s T4 project in the sixth generation AMOLED flexible panel production line began mass production in 2020, with 48,000 modules to be manufactured each month.

“AMOLED technology is the future of smartphone panels. At present, technology upgrades of display panels on smartphones are focused on appearance, function and picture quality, ”said Zhang Yu, vice president of BOE.


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