Foldable display market to see explosive growth

The demand for organic light-emitting diode (OLED) foldable display panels is expected to surge 100-fold by 2025, following the introduction of folding smartphones last year, according to the Omdia Foldable Display Technology & Market 2020 report.

The report said that the global foldable OLED display market is expected to soar to 3.9 million this year, over a fivefold increase from 700,000 in 2019.

Shipments are expected to rise quickly over the next five years to 73.1 million in 2025.

“Foldable AMOLEDs are triggering a wave of innovation in smartphone form factors, allowing small devices to support very large displays,” said Jerry Kang, senior principal analyst at Omdia.

“The foldable-display smartphone market was initiated in 2019 with the introduction of models from Samsung, Huawei, Lenovo and Royole. However, shipments were limited last year due to the extremely high pricing and low reliability of these models.

“Despite these challenges, smartphone OEMs are making increasing use of foldable AMOLED displays in 2020, as they propagate the technology through their product lines.”

However, foldable displays only account for a small proportion of the flexible OLED market this year, representing 1.3 percent of the 311.9 million sold.

Many experts believe the small percentage leaves abundant growth opportunities for foldable displays in the coming years after companies start resolving manufacturing issues.

“Foldable displays are currently difficult to mass produce with high reliability and low cost due to their extreme mechanical and optical properties,” Kang said. “As a result, smartphone makers are using foldable displays with lower resolutions than they employ in their flagship models, which enables manufacturing at a lower cost and with better yields than high-resolution display panels.”

Since 2019, six devices have been introduced with foldable displays in the global market, but had their release dates postponed due to damage issues. Electronics manufacturers are working to tackle these problems to enhance the reliability of foldable displays to boost demand.

“The foldable display market could grow much more rapidly if the reliability of foldable cover lenses, touch sensors and polarizer films is improved,” Kang said. “To enhance foldable display durability, panel suppliers need to adopt innovations including ultrathin glass covers (UTG), touch sensor on thin-film-encapsulation (TSP on TFE) and color filter on thin-film-encapsulation (CF on TFE).”