Tata Group to Become the Fourth iPhone Assembler as Production Relocation Accelerates

Due to geopolitical and pandemic, Apple has been accelerating the diversification of its supply sources, with India being the most well-known case for such transfer. According to TrendForce, India’s Tata Group is expected to become the fourth iPhone assembler for Apple. Following Apple’s pattern, new suppliers receive smaller orders for lower-end models, which means Tata Group will initially get only small orders for the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus.

TrendForce thinks the small order has 3 implications in Apple’s relocation plan:

First, Tata, the largest conglomerate in India, has received orders for iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus, indicating that India will become the first wave of shipments for new iPhone series.

Second, the reason why Tata is able to produce iPhone is due to the acquisition of Wistron’s Indian production line. Therefore, Tata’s entry also means Wistron’s exit from the iPhone assembly business.

Last, Tata is the fourth company to undertake iPhone assembly business after Luxshare joined in 2020 for iPhone 12 Pro Max assembly.

TrendForce emphasized that although Tata’s share of assembly orders for various iPhone models is only 5% in 2023, it still shows an accelerating trend of Apple’s production relocation.


Smartphone Market Dims as Refurbished Market Rise

As smartphones have entered a mature phase, the pace of innovation has slowed down. Additionally, the hardware and software of smartphones have reached a certain level, leading to longer lifespans and indirectly causing longer replacement cycles. On the other hand, to boost sales, brands and retailers have opened up old-for-new exchange programs, which has helped stabilize the growing market for second-hand and refurbished phones. Furthermore, the recent global economic downturn and consumer spending constraints have further driven the growth of this market.

The second-hand and refurbished phone market has been gradually strengthening, even eroding the performance of the new smartphone market. According to MediaTek, a major mobile chipmaker, the total volume of the iPhone second-hand and refurbished market is estimated to be around 50 million to 100 million units annually.

TrendForce estimates that the sales volume of this second-hand and refurbished market will be between 150 million to 200 million units this year, accounting for approximately 10-15% of the overall handset sales.

Looking ahead to 2024, due to the global economic situation not being overly optimistic, as well as the increased demand for smartphones in emerging regions, the market is expected to continue to contribute to growth. We estimate that the second-hand and refurbished market will reach a sales performance of over 200 million units in 2024.

On the other hand, the second-hand and refurbished market is still mainly dominated by high-end phones from Apple and non-Apple brands with higher resale value. Among them, Apple accounts for about 50% of the market, followed by Samsung.


Fierce Rivalry in AMOLED Panel Market Triggers Rapid Price Drop

Due to weak demand in the mobile phone market, the decline in prices of mobile phone panels, especially AMOLED panels, has accelerated this year. Under overcapacity pressure, the price decline has exceeded expectations.

According to our survey, some brands actively introduced Ramless DDI flexible AMOLED panels in the second half of last year, trying to narrow the price gap with rigid AMOLED panels and increase usage rates through DDI cost optimization. However, the inventory level of flexible AMOLED panels with Ram is high, and the price decline has also accelerated, while also narrowing the price gap with rigid AMOLED panels.

The current prices update:

  • Rigid AMOLED panels are around USD 18-20.
  • Flexible AMOLED panels with Ram are priced at around USD 25 or even lower, which is a significant drop from the average of USD 30 or more last year.
  • The above price reduction of flexible AMOLED panels with Ram has led to a price reduction of Ramless DDI flexible AMOLED panels, which are currently priced at around USD 20-22.

The significant price reduction of flexible AMOLED panels with Ram has dimmed the cost advantage of Ramless DDI flexible AMOLED panels, and currently only Xiaomi has adopted them. Other first-tier brand customers remain cautious.

In addition, due to the momentum of flexible AMOLED panel price declines, whether the price of rigid AMOLED panels will follow suit has become a challenge for SDC. We believe that SDC should follow the price reduction strategy and may even approach the level of USD 15 in the second half of the year after abandoning the USD 20 threshold.

However, there are two reasons why we believe SDC may find it difficult to reverse the current situation even with a price reduction strategy. These reasons include:

  • Weak overall smartphone demand this year.
  • Chinese brand customers will gradually adjust their procurement strategy to focus on domestic panel factories. For SDC, how to dispose of rigid AMOLED panel capacity in the medium to long term will be a major issue.

Due to the sustained pressure on AMOLED panel prices, LTPS LCD panel prices are also forced to continue to decline, and it is expected that prices will continue to drop from the current range of USD 10-15 and may even fall below USD 10.

On the other hand, because LTPS LCD prices have approached a-Si LCD panel prices, it has aroused the interest of some brand customers. Under the overall weak market conditions, adopting low-cost LTPS LCD specifications may help improve revenue performance or stimulate demand by upgrading from HD to FHD specifications at the same price.


Apple Dominates the Refurbished Phone Market: What’s Driving its Success?

According to TrendForce’s research, the global production volume of smartphones in 2022 is projected to reach 1.192 billion units, a YoY decrease of 10.6%, exceeding even the decline seen in the pandemic year.

However, the market for refurbished smartphones is a completely different story. Research institutions have pointed out that Apple’s sales of refurbished smartphones have grown by 16%, and the company now holds nearly half of the refurbished phone market.

The thriving market for refurbished and second-hand smartphones has ignited demand for touch and display integration IC (TDDI) from the repair market since 2H22, and this demand is expected to double to 200 million units in 2023.

But why is the demand for refurbished and second-hand smartphones increasing year after year? There are two possible reasons based on the current overall environment:

The price of refurbished and second-hand smartphones is lower than that of new smartphones.

Most refurbished and second-hand smartphones are refurbished before being sold back to the market. Their functionality and appearance are mostly normal, and unless the user mentions it, it is difficult to tell if it is a second-hand smartphone.

When purchasing refurbished smartphones, most people prioritize high-end models with high price points, regardless of the brand. However, the entry threshold for high-end new smartphones is often high, but this type of smartphone can be obtained at a cheap price in the second-hand market.

Why iPhone is the preferred choice?

  • Brand recognition: Consumers of all ages may immediately think of Apple/iPhone when they hear the words “smartphone brand,” and iPhone can become a faction in its own right compared to Android smartphones.
  • Operating system support: For smartphone users, the biggest fear when using the same smartphone for a long time is encountering the problem of the operating system no longer being supported. Although the smartphone can still be used when the operating system cannot be upgraded, security is no longer guaranteed.

However, the support and fluidity of the operating system are often advantages of Apple, and the iOS update support period is quite long, up to 6 years. Although 6 years may not sound long, statistics show that the average device usage cycle for an iPhone user is 3 years, and a support period of 6 years is actually a very long time. Even if you take over someone else’s second-hand smartphone, you don’t have to worry too much about the operating system not being supported.

While the growth of the refurbished smartphone market is good news for consumers, how much benefit does it bring to smartphone manufacturers?

For smartphone manufacturers, most of the profits come from the sale of new smartphones. When consumers purchase second-hand smartphones, the profit margins for manufacturers are reduced. However, manufacturers can still benefit from the demand for refurbished smartphones by participating in the refurbishment process or selling refurbished smartphones themselves.


Self-driving Cars to Fuel Demand for CIS

According to a recent report by TrendForce, automotive applications are expected to become the main growth driver of the CIS market, with its share of terminal applications projected to increase from around 9% in 2023 to approximately 15% in 2026.

As self-driving systems become more widespread, the demand for CIS in the automotive industry will continue to increase. Trendforce estimates that the average number of CIS used per car will increase from 3-4 in 2022 to 6-7 in 2026, with the overall market size growing from $1.8 billion in 2023 to over $3 billion in 2026 at a CAGR of over 20%.

On the other hand, due to the stagnation in the number of camera modules, the growth of the smartphone CIS market is expected to be in the low single digits. By 2026, CIS terminal applications in smartphones are predicted to decrease from 63% in 2023 to 51%, while automotive applications are projected to increase from 9% to 15%.

The report offers the following insights into the CIS market for smartphones:

  • 10.5% decline in smartphone production in 2022: Due to factors such as war, pandemics, inflation, and inventory adjustments, global smartphone production in 2022 declined by 10.5% to 1.193 billion units, resulting in a 6.7% decline in the shipment of camera modules to 4.46 billion units and a 4% decline in the overall CIS market size to $18.9 billion.
  • 5% growth in the CIS market size in 2023: The report predicts that the global smartphone production will increase by 0.9% to 1.203 billion units in 2023, with the shipment of camera modules reaching 4.62 billion units, up 3.6% YoY, driving the overall CIS market size to grow by 5% to $19.8 billion.
  • Stagnation in the number of smartphone camera modules: From 2021 onwards, the proportion of shipments of smartphones with four and more rear camera modules has remained at 21%, slightly lower than the 23% in 2020, and is expected to remain at the same level in 2023.
  • The trend towards large size and high-resolution CIS: In 2021, Samsung launched the world’s first 200-megapixel CIS, the ISOCELL HP1, while Sony introduced the IMX989 in 2022, marking the official entry of high-end smartphones into the one-inch era.

Additionally, driven by new features such as night photography, it is anticipated that the image quality of smartphone cameras may surpass that of single-lens reflex cameras (SLR) by 2024, resulting in the increase of market size and ASP of CIS.

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