Samsung Pivots to Tablet and Notebook OLEDs Amid Fear of Chinese Competition for Smartphones

In the face of heightened competition from Chinese manufacturers in the smartphone OLED panel market, Samsung Display is shifting its focus to producing OLED panels for tablets and laptops, according to a presentation by UBI Research.

At the 2023 OLED & Micro Display Analyst Seminar held by UBI Research, Lee noted that Chinese manufacturers are set to dominate the smartphone OLED panel market due to their pricing advantage. He highlighted Samsung Display’s decision to strategically realign its production focus as a response to these market changes.

Samsung Display’s pivot to the tablet and laptop OLED market is predicted to maintain the company’s sales volume, as it offsets the expected sharp decline in shipments of rigid OLEDs for smartphones. Lee noted that Samsung Display leads Chinese competitors by approximately four years in the notebook OLED market.

In a bid to fortify its position, Samsung Display intends to invest 4.1 trillion won to initiate production of 8.6-generation OLEDs for IT applications by 2025. The company’s goal is to achieve a production capacity of approximately 15,000 units per month.

Other companies, including LG Display, are contemplating entering the 8.6-generation line. However, LG Display, which has reported losses for four consecutive quarters, may experience delays in entering the market. CEO Lee projected that LG Display could potentially start supplying panels to Apple’s MacBook line from 2026, pending a secured and stabilized production process. China’s BOE is also cautious about investing in the 8.6-generation line, primarily due to uncertainties surrounding supply agreements for Apple’s iPhone and limited government support for additional investment.

Tianma Rises as Second Major OLED Panel Supplier in China, Surpassing Visionox

UBI had also said that in a significant shift in the Chinese OLED panel market for smartphones, Tianma has outpaced Visionox to become the second-largest supplier in Q1’23, trailing only BOE. Visionox has consistently held the second position but circumstances seem to be favoring Tianma solidifying its second place position this year.

Tianma’s clientele includes major Chinese smartphone manufacturers like Xiaomi, vivo, Oppo, Honor, and Lenovo. One of the primary reasons attributed to Tianma’s increased OLED shipments is the company’s acquisition of some of TCL CSOT’s shipments to Xiaomi.

Tianma witnessed a substantial surge in its panel shipments since Q4’22, owing to the increased orders from Xiaomi. The company’s smartphone OLED panel shipments in Q4’22 saw about a threefold increase compared to the previous quarter. In Q1’23, the company reached an impressive milestone, with smartphone OLED panel shipments hitting 8.5 million units, marking a 430% increase year-on-year.