According to TrendForce research, after smartphone panel shipments peaked at 1.95 billion in 2018, overall shipments declined gradually year over year. After 2020, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, shipments fell sharply to 1.796 billion units. In 2021, as the pandemic festered along with serious shortages of components overall, downstream customers continued to raise inventories to allay possible risks of shortages, driving the scale of panel shipment upwards again to 1.888 billion units. Looking forward in 2022, as mobile phone shipments are expected to remain flat, overall smartphone panel shipments have the opportunity to maintain a similar level to that in 2021, reaching approximately 1.872 billion units, a decline of only approximately 0.9%.
Judging from the shipment scale of major panel makers, BOE has become the global leader in smartphone panel shipments and it has an opportunity to maintain a scale of 502 million panels in 2022. SDC ranks second and it is expected to grow to the level of 479 million units in 2022, of which all shipments are AMOLED panels. Third to fifth consist of Tianma Microelectronics, Innolux, and TCL. From the perspective of the previous five manufacturers, the three major panel manufacturers in China alone contributed approximately 52.1% of global smartphone panel shipments, meaning that China has become an important hub for the production of mobile phone-related components and assembly, followed by South Korea panel companies at 28.5%, Taiwanese panel companies at 10.5%, and Japanese panel companies at 8.9%.
The proportion of AMOLED panels is still growing in the mobile phone panel market. As a-Si LCD panels fulfill demand for the low-end entry-level market and LTPS LCD panels nestle between the two, the market is becoming increasingly crowded. From the perspective of AMOLED technology trends, in response to changes in mobile phone specifications, AMOLED is currently developing in the direction of power conservation and folding. Therefore, technologies such as LTPO backplane and COE form the key development directions of several major panel manufacturers at this stage. Excluding SDC , which maintains certain leading advantages and is the benchmark for other panel manufacturers, panel specification requirements required by brands such as Apple for the iPhone will also have a significant impact on the development direction of AMOLED panel specifications. At present, China’s production capacity is mainly based on flexible AMOLED panels, while SDC has invested resources in both rigid AMOLED and flexible AMOLED panels. According to the overall AMOLED panel shipment plan for 2022, shipment scale is expected to be approximately 703 million units, or 15.4% YoY.
In the past, LTPS panels were produced predominantly by Japanese panel manufacturers. In the early days, due to these companies’ close partnership with Apple, LTPS panels were primarily used in mid-to-high-end smartphone models, which also led to a wave of LTPS LCD production line expansion. However, as the technology matured, coupled with the successive rise of Chinese panel plants and the growth of Chinese mobile phone brands, the primary panel manufacturers in the overall LTPS LCD supply have gradually switched from Japanese to Chinese panel companies and prices and costs have also continued to improve and decline. Overall LTPS LCD panel factory shipments are forecast to reach approximately 494 million units in 2022, a YoY decline of 10.7%.
a-Si LCD panels were an important foundation in the development of the entire smartphone panel market. However, with the rise of LTPS LCD and the subsequent increase in AMOLED panel production capacity, a-Si panels have gradually retreated to the low-end entry-level mobile phone market. a-Si LCD is mainly based on the HD resolution and the bulk of supply still comes from Chinese panel manufacturers, of which BOE is the main panel supplier. It is worth mentioning, due to fierce competition in the low-end mobile phone panel market, most Japanese and Korean panel manufacturers have successively reduced their supply of a-Si panels. Among Taiwanese panel manufacturers, AUO has also continued to reduce the supply of its a-Si panels. Shipments of a-Si LCD panels in 2022 is forecast at approximately 675 million units, a decline of 7.0% YoY.