Smartphones are turned off, and worldwide screen factories have completed the theft

120Hz high refresh rate, under-screen camera or folding screen, although mobile phone manufacturers and supply chain companies have played a lot of new tricks on mobile phone screens in recent years and brought some new technologies, these "selling points" "Everything seems to have calmed down now, it's become the new normal.

With the rapid growth of these new technologies, the mobile phone AMOLED screen industry has also fallen into the dilemma of overcapacity and declining profits when the entire consumer electronics industry is experiencing a severe winter. Industry leaders have begun to lower their shipment expectations.

In 2021, Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, OPPO, Vivo, and Honor, almost all flagship phones of mobile phone manufacturers will use high-end AMOLED screens, and the penetration rate of AMOLED in smartphones will exceed one-third. Domestic screen manufacturers have also seized the opportunity, relying on the strong demand in the local market, their own price advantages, and other factors to gradually narrow the gap in technology and production capacity with the Korean giants.

But even this once-touted AMOLED technology has now become a "hot potato" and even "unable to sell at a high price". The dazzling innovations are hard to find, and the high production capacity also makes the screen manufacturers careless. Has the mobile phone screen track really come to an end? How do manufacturers find new growth points, and are there any new stories to tell?

Next, on a small mobile phone screen, what else can we expect?

Mobile AMOLED falls out of favor in 2022

Today, we can see that more and more Android phones use domestic AMOLED screens, among which BOE and TCL Huaxing are the two main suppliers. AMOLED is a type of OLED, which has a better display effect and lower power consumption than traditional LCD screens. In the past two years, it has almost become the standard for high-end flagship smartphones.

Not long ago, BOE, the first domestic OLED brother, suddenly lowered the shipment target of flexible OLED screens significantly, from 100 million to 80 million, a drop of about 20%. BOE has already entered the supply chain of Apple's iPhone 14 screen before. We don't know if this adjustment is related to the lower-than-expected sales of the iPhone 14 standard version. The iPhone 14 Pro series screens are exclusively supplied by Samsung, and BOE has not been able to get a share of them.

In the communication with industry insiders, we learned that although we seem to see that more and more manufacturers have adopted domestic OLED screens, in fact, there is a relatively obvious "price reduction" in the field of mobile phone AMOLED, and screen manufacturers "do not agree with the situation". Do not make money".

Of course, objectively speaking, making money is certain, it is just a matter of earning more and earning less.

Why is it "pressed down"? We naturally think that there is a problem with supply and demand, and it is true.

In fact, in the first half of this year alone, global smartphone AMOLED screen shipments fell by more than 10.5% year-on-year, with shipments of about 278 million units.

Sales of the mobile phone industry are cold, which has now become the norm. Even if the two flagship mobile phones of Apple and Huawei are released, they will only cause water splashes on the calm lake, but it is difficult to form waves that change the direction of flow.

It is worth mentioning that Huawei was an important AMOLED screen customer of domestic screen manufacturers before. Huawei, a major customer, is currently in a weak mobile phone business, causing a large "order gap".

On the other hand, OLED has always been the key technology direction of various screen manufacturers. In recent years, production lines have been expanding rapidly to increase production capacity. When demand suddenly plummets, excess capacity is inevitable.

"Without the original customers, there will naturally be a need to expand to new customers. In the event of overcapacity and insufficient demand, it is inevitable that the terminal manufacturer will lower the price. " A person close to the screen manufacturer told Zhishi.

So how much OLED production capacity is there today? According to public data, the global AMOLED monthly production capacity is about 1.68 million pieces. If it is simply calculated by cutting about 200 6.7-inch mobile phone screens per piece of the 6th generation line, about 336 million mobile phone AMOLED screens can be produced globally every month.

In the second quarter of this year, global smartphone shipments were only about 287 million units. That is to say, the global mobile phone market may not be able to digest the screens produced for one month at full capacity, and the supply-demand ratio is about 3.5:1.

Although this calculation is slightly rough, it can be seen intuitively that the AMOLED production capacity is really excessive.

An industry insider told Wisdom that this year, the large-size LCD industry, which domestic manufacturers are good at, is sluggish, and OLED is facing "sluggish sales". Under the dual effect, the screen manufacturers' financial reports for the next quarter may not be very good.

OLED has no time to play? Apple creates a new match point for you

Facing the current predicament of the domestic screen industry, supply chain manufacturers and terminal manufacturers are actively looking for new opportunities.

Since this "small screen" on mobile phones can no longer work, many manufacturers have turned their attention to medium and large-sized OLED products, such as tablets, laptops, monitors, etc.

Screen manufacturers usually refer to this type of OLED product as "IT OLED".

The core reason why you are interested in this type of OLED screen is that there is a potentially big customer to use it. This big customer is none other than the technology giant Apple.

From an Apple OLED screen iteration roadmap predicted by Omdia, we can see that in the future, Apple's three extremely important product lines, iPad, MacBook, and iMac, will gradually adopt OLED screens.

Apple IT OLED panel roadmap (Omdia forecast)

In the third quarter of last year, Apple sold 7.82 million Macs and 14.7 million iPads, which is not to be underestimated.

The reason why it is said to be a "potential" customer is that whether Apple will use it when it will be used, and whose screen will be used, still depends on the specific technology maturity and production capacity.

At present, from the traditional OLED giants Samsung and LG in South Korea to the domestic BOE, TCL Huaxing, Visionox, and Tianma, they are all actively promoting the layout of related technologies.

OLED screens have been used in mobile phones for many years, but they are not common in medium-sized fields such as tablets, computers, and monitors. On the one hand, these devices are often aimed at productivity scenarios and have new requirements and tests for OLED technology.

Whether the life of the OLED screen can be guaranteed, whether it can solve the "burn-in" problem, or whether it can reach new standards in terms of materials, cost yield, etc., are the challenges faced by OLED technology.

Double-layer tandem OLED technology is the research and development direction chosen by most mainstream manufacturers. Simply put, "double-layer tandem" is to use two layers of OLED light-emitting materials to make the screen brighter and longer lifespan. Can guarantee lower power consumption.

It sounds simple, but in practice, there are still many difficulties that need to be solved in terms of screen structure design, circuit, driver chip, mass production process, yield, and so on.

Schematic diagram of the hierarchical structure of the double-layer OLED display unit

According to industry information, Apple designed the driver chip, OLED structure, and circuit of the double-layer tandem OLED screen, and handed it over to Samsung and LG to develop mass-production technology. The industry generally predicts that around 2024, we will see Apple's iPad, MacBook, and other products using OLED screens.

Both Samsung and LG have already started the research and development of related technologies, and on the domestic side, BOE, which has already entered the Apple supply chain, is also developing related technologies and has now entered the mass production stage. "The OLED structure can double the brightness of the screen and quadruple the life of the product, which can reduce power consumption by about 30% when used in smartphones.

It can be seen that in some emerging fields of OLED, domestic manufacturers have basically tied the research and development progress compared with industry leaders such as Samsung and LG.

Regardless of whether the double-layer tandem OLED technology will set off a new revolution in the field of consumer electronics screens, one thing is clear, there are still many directions for OLED technology to continue to explore.

What can we expect between the square-inch screens of mobile phones?

Smartphones account for nearly 90% of the global OLED downstream applications. It can be said that the widespread use of AMOLED screens on smartphones has driven the development of the entire OLED industry.

Today, when smartphones are in deep fatigue, the penetration focus of OLED technology has gradually shifted to medium and large sizes and has shifted to fields such as tablets, computers, and TVs.

So on the small screen of a mobile phone, can we still expect a new subversive experience?

After communicating with a number of industry insiders, we found that although there are still opportunities, if you want a subversive visual experience, perhaps your eyes can no longer be limited to a mobile phone.

Opportunity first. Obviously, the under-screen camera technology that was popular in the past few years is still not mature enough. Although Samsung, Xiaomi, and ZTE have launched multiple generations of under-screen camera phones, the camera effect is still unsatisfactory.

After various manufacturers have made multiple rounds of iterations in screen materials, structure, circuit design, etc., the problem of "low transmittance" of the screen has not been substantively resolved.

A person in the 3D vision industry told Zhishi that Apple is not in a hurry to apply off-screen camera technology to the iPhone, which has a lot to do with the unsatisfactory photo effect. For Apple, a perfect experience is better than it seems. The new "selling point" is more important.

Apple iPhone screen shape roadmap prediction, author: Ross Young

In addition to making the screen more "good-looking", making the screen healthier and more environmentally friendly is also a key direction for manufacturers to optimize, such as how to use PWM high-frequency dimming to make the screen more eye-friendly.

When it comes to environmental protection, various "energy-saving" technologies have also become a new focus in the field of screens. In the future, the miniaturization, thinning, and low power consumption of consumer electronic product components are an inevitable trend of development.

On Samsung's latest folding screen flagship phone, the Galaxy Z Fold4, there is a "black technology" that has been overlooked by many, Samsung named it Eco² OLED Plus technology.

To put it simply, this technology uses a new color filter material to replace the key polarizer in the OLED screen, allowing the light transmittance of the screen to reach 68%, while the screen power consumption is less than half of the ordinary OLED screen.

There are also domestic manufacturers developing similar technologies, such as Tianma's CFOT technology. The principle is also to use CFOT to replace the polarizer in OLED so that the transmittance of light can be increased by 30%, while the power consumption of the panel can be reduced by more than 25%.

Overall, there are still some technologies that need to be polished and mature in the field of mobile phone screens, but if we want a subversive visual interaction experience, our eyes may have to go from the "flat world" of mobile phones to the "3D world", yes, it is Yuan universe.

Just recently, according to industry information, Apple asked South Korea's Samsung and LG to develop new silicon-based OLED screens for VR/AR products, and the screen pixel density of silicon-based OLEDs has reached an astonishing 3500PPI.

Schematic diagram of the structure of the silicon-based OLED screen, source: LG

You know, the current mainstream 27-inch 4K display has a pixel density of only 163PPI. 

A head of the Korean parts industry said that Apple hopes to develop a technology that can bring people "optical illusion immersion", and the simple understanding is to make the virtual world look more real.

Previously, Ming-Chi Kuo broke the news that the OLED screen on Apple's first MR head-mounted display will be exclusively supplied by Sony. This time Apple has introduced two other giants, Samsung and LG, which has also increased pressure on Sony.

Apple iPhone X once opened the "OLED era" of mainstream smartphones, and five years later, whether Apple can enter the metaverse era with a stunning product and drive the screen industry to the next key node, the answer is already out of our hands far.

The size has been increasing, the pixels have been continuously improved, the refresh rate has been increased from 60Hz to 165Hz, and various new technologies such as under-screen cameras, flexible, and LTPO have continued. In just a few years, the AMOLED screen of mobile phones has grown from savage growth to today's "bottleneck period", and Breaking through the bottleneck may usher in a new beginning.

It is said that the Internet will change from two-dimensional to three-dimensional. Now major screen manufacturers are also actively researching display screens used in various AR and VR products. Perhaps the focus of the screen war is about to move from the mobile Internet era to the metaverse era.

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