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2021-04-28

Chinese Suppliers Take Top Three Spots in TV Panel Shipment Ranking, with Combined Shipment of More Than 50% of All Suppliers, Says TrendForce

As Samsung Display (SDC) decided to extend the manufacturing operations of its Korea-based Gen 8.5 LCD fab, and tier-two panel suppliers are still slow to reassign their production capacities from TV panels to IT panels, TrendForce expects total TV panel shipment for 2021 to reach 269 million units, which is relatively unchanged compared to 2020 levels. Panel suppliers will continue to focus on large-sized TV panels this year in response to several industry-wide developments, including M&A, reduced production capacities, improved manufacturing technologies, and increased panel demand. Furthermore, as the persistent price hike of TV panels continues to reduce the profit margins of TV sets, TV brands have started to gravitate towards larger, more profitable TV sizes. TrendForce therefore expects the average TV panel size this year to increase by 1.6 inches and move towards 50 inches.

TrendForce analyst Jeanette Chan indicates that the shift towards large-sized panels is an effective means of expending the production capacity of panel suppliers. Case in point, due to the limited production capacity for TV panels in 1H21, not only are TV panels currently in short supply, but TV panel prices are also on the rise. On the other hand, the demand for TV panels in 2H21 will depend on several key factors: first, whether the increased retail price of TV sets will hamper consumer demand; second, whether the pandemic will be effectively brought under control as more countries begin vaccinations; third, whether the impending global economic recovery will be a significant one. And finally, whether a market bubble will appear as a result of TV manufacturers’ overbooking panel orders in anticipation of potential hindrances including the price hike of materials in the upstream supply chain, the shortage of glass substrates due to such accidents as facility fires, the shortage of IC supply, and the extended shipping times.

Thanks to their persistently rising production capacity and successful acquisitions, China-based BOE and CSOT, the two largest panel suppliers in the world, are expected to collectively account for about 40% of total TV panel shipment this year. At the same time, BOE and CSOT are actively improving their technologies and making a push for high-end products, such as 8K, ZBD, and AM Mini LED. By leveraging their improved technologies and available funds, the two companies are likely to extend their operations upstream by systematically undertaking vertical integrations.

On the other hand, HKC, which is currently raising its production capacity, has garnered much attention in the market amidst the current shortage situation of TV panels. Along with its Changsha-based H5 fab, which is set to kick off mass production shortly, HKC possesses four Gen 8.6 fabs in total. By raising its production capacity and engaging in additional strategic partnerships with tier-one TV brands, HKC is expected to enter the top three ranking of panel suppliers by TV panel shipment for the first time ever, with a shipment of about 41.91 million units this year, a 33.7% increase YoY.

Taiwan-based AUO and Innolux are expected to experience YoY decreases in their shipments this year as their production capacities are relatively limited, although both companies’ efforts to optimize their products and engage in cross-industry partnerships have brought them certain competitive advantages. In particular, AUO is leading the panel industry in developing not only ultra-high-end products, such as 8K+ZBD, but also Micro LED displays, whereas Innolux holds competitive advantages in product diversity and in-house ODM services. It should be pointed out that these two Taiwanese companies are able to deal with the current IC shortage situation better than their competitors because their parent companies have longstanding business relationships with IC design companies.

With regards to Korean suppliers, although LGD and SDC have both prolonged their LCD manufacturing operations in Korea in order to satisfy the current bullish market demand, the two companies are primarily focusing on transitioning their offerings to new products. LGD will expand the OLED production capacity of its Guangzhou fab in 2Q21 as part of its effort to dominate the OLED market. As for SDC, the company has dropped out of the top six ranking this year as a result of its lowered production capacity. However, new TV sets featuring SDC’s QD-OLED panels are expected to officially hit the market in 4Q21, in turn driving SDC’s yearly TV panel shipment to 2 million units in 2022.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Display Research, please click here, or email Ms. Vivie Liu from the Sales Department at vivieliu@trendforce.com

2021-04-28

Smartphone Camera Module Shipment for 2021 Projected to Exceed 5 Billion Units as Competition Over Camera Specs Intensifies, Says TrendForce

In response to consumers’ growing emphasis on camera performance as a major selling point of smartphones, smartphone brands have successively released multi-camera handsets to target this rising demand and seize market shares, in turn driving up the annual shipment volume of smartphone camera modules, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Case in point, despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the smartphone market in 2020, total smartphone camera module shipment still underwent a 3% growth YoY due to the increasing number of camera modules featured per handset as a result of smartphone brands’ competition over camera hardware. Given that the upward trajectory of smartphone camera module shipment will likely persist this year, TrendForce therefore forecasts an annual shipment volume of 5.07 billion units for 2021, an 11% growth YoY.

In addition to increasing the number of camera modules per handset, smartphone brands have also been raising the specifications of their smartphone cameras. First, with regards to the primary camera, certain Android phones will feature up to 64MP camera modules, which will surpass a 20% penetration rate in 2021 (making this particular pixel count spec the fastest-growing among all primary camera specifications), whereas the latest iPhones will likely continue to feature a 12MP primary camera, since Apple is mainly focused on the overall image quality of photos as opposed to megapixel count. Second, with regards to CMOS image sensors, certain smartphone brands, such as Apple, Huawei, and Xiaomi, are expected to increase their smartphone cameras’ sensor sizes to one inch in order to improve these cameras’ performances in low-light or night settings.

Third, with regards to ultrawide cameras, Apple will look to strengthen the autofocus performance of its flagship iPhone models by equipping the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max with VCMs (voice coil motors), which are devices that drive autofocus systems. On the other hand, Huawei and OPPO will incorporate FreeForm Lens technology to address the distortion effect commonly found towards the edges of photos taken with ultrawide cameras.

Finally, with regards to periscope cameras, their widespread adoption by Android smartphone brands in 2020 resulted in a massive 429% growth YoY. Compared to the telephoto cameras found in iPhones, which offer 2.5x optical zoom, periscope cameras are capable of 5x optical zoom at the bare minimum, which delivers much higher image clarity in long-range photography situations. However, the forecasted decline in smartphone shipment of Huawei and Honor, which are the most aggressive in the industry in terms of periscope camera adoption, will in turn negatively affect total periscope camera module shipment for 2021 as well. TrendForce believes that a return to massive growth will not take place unless periscope camera modules capable of continuous autofocus are successfully mass produced, and smartphone brands are willing to adopt such modules for their handsets.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-04-28

LG Set to Exit from Smartphone Business Following Years of Losses, with Lower than 1% Market Share Projected for 2021, Says TrendForce

TrendForce’s investigations finds that LG manufactured merely 30.6 million smartphones last year, which represented a 2.4% market share. The Korean company took ninth place in the global ranking of smartphone brands by production volume in 2020. At the start of this year, LG began to consider either selling or shuttering its mobile phone unit.

Around that same time, it also suspended the R&D of new smartphone models. On April 5, LG announced the decision to fold up the mobile phone unit as it was ultimately unable to offset consecutive years of financial losses it suffered in the smartphone market. Based on the company’s current plan, the mobile phone unit will wind down its operation by the end of July, while its smartphone manufacturing operations will cease by the end of 2Q21.

TrendForce therefore expects LG to occupy a lower than 1% share in the smartphone market this year. Incidentally, the conditions for survival for smartphone brands have further deteriorated on account of the increasingly fierce market competition as well as the recent and continuing hike in component prices. Taken altogether, these developments will reinforce the trend of the dominant brands having more and more market share in the future at the expense of the smaller brands.

Regarding LG’s performance in the smartphone market during the recent years, the company spared no effort in high-end R&D, with such results as the LG Wing with a rotating screen and the LG Rollable, which, as the name suggests, features a side-rolling display. The latter model remained a concept and did not enter mass production.

Despite its efforts, LG however continued to lag behind in sales when compared with the other major brands, such as Samsung and Apple. LG had a relatively weak position in the high-end segment of the smartphone market. As for the mid-range and entry-level segments, LG could not match Chinese brands in terms of pricing. To optimize its cost structure, LG expanded the share of device production going to ODMs. Nevertheless, this action was too late to turn things around.

Samsung, Lenovo, and Xiaomi are likely to benefit from LG’s exit from the North and Latin American markets

LG’s smartphone business has become unprofitable since 2Q15; and its financial losses were further exacerbated after it made a gradual exit from the Chinese market in 2016. As of 4Q20, LG’s smartphone business suffered 23 consecutive quarters of financial losses, which totaled about 5 trillion KRW. Despite LG’s limited market share, however, its exit from the various regional smartphone markets will still benefit its competitors in those markets, in particular, the mid-range segment in North America and Latin America.

With regards to North America, LG’s market share there will be split among its Android-based competitors, including Samsung, Lenovo (Motorola), and other in-house, private brands owned by domestic telecom operators. With regards to Latin America, on the other hand, LG’s exit will more noticeably benefit Lenovo (Motorola) and Xiaomi.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2021, as vaccinations begin to take place around the world, TrendForce expects the smartphone industry, which fulfills a basic living necessity, to make a gradual recovery as well. Thanks to the general public’s cyclical replacement demand, as well as growing demand from emerging markets, total smartphone production remains unaffected by LG’s exit. As a result, TrendForce maintains its smartphone production forecast of 1.36 billion units for 2021, a 9% increase YoY.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-04-28

Global Server Shipment for 2021 Projected to Grow by More than 5% YoY, with Successive QoQ Increases in Demand for ODM Direct Servers, Says TrendForce

Enterprise demand for cloud services has been rising steady in the past two years owing to the rapidly changing global markets and uncertainties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. TrendForce’s investigations find that most enterprises have been prioritizing cloud service adoption across applications ranging from AI to other emerging technologies as cloud services have relatively flexible costs. Case in point, demand from clients in the hyperscale data center segment constituted more than 40% of total demand for servers in 4Q20, while this figure may potentially approach 45% for 2021. For 2021, TrendForce expects global server shipment to increase by more than 5% YoY and ODM Direct server shipment to increase by more than 15% YoY.

Global server shipment for 2Q21 is expected to increase by 20% QoQ and remain unaffected by material shortage

Thanks to the accelerating pace of enterprise cloud migration and the long queue of unfulfilled server orders last year as a result of the pandemic, server ODMs will likely receive an increasing number of client orders throughout each quarter this year. For instance, ODM vendors saw a 1% QoQ growth in L6 server barebones orders from their clients in 1Q21, but this growth is expected to reach 15-18% in 2Q21. TrendForce’s analysis indicates that apart from server ODMs maintaining a strong momentum, server OEMs (or server brands) will also be able to significantly raise their unit shipments in 2Q21.

The quarterly total shipments from server OEMs for 2Q21 is currently projected to increase by 20% compared with 1Q21 that was the traditional off-season. The COVID-19 pandemic is a major contributor to shipment growth because it has caused a paradigm shift in corporate work practices and spurred companies to accelerate their cloud migrations. The effects of the pandemic have also provided a window of opportunity for the traditional server OEMs, including HPE and Dell, to develop new business models such as hybrid cloud solutions or colocation services that allow their customers to pay as they go, in addition to their existing sales of whole servers.

It should be pointed out that, not only is the shortage of materials within the server supply chain as yet unresolved, but the long lead times for certain key components are also showing no signs of abating. However, in response to the pandemic’s impact on the industry last year, server manufacturers have now transitioned to a more flexible procurement strategy by sourcing from two or three suppliers instead of a single supplier for a single component, as this diversification allows server manufacturers to mitigate the risk of potential supply chain disruptions. TrendForce therefore believes that the current supply of key components including BMCs and PMICs is sufficient for server manufacturers, without any noticeable risk of supply chain disruptions in the short run.

Huawei and Inspur maintain brisk server shipments due to favorable domestic governmental policies and demand from cloud service providers

China’s server demand, which accounted for about 27.2% of the global total in 1Q21, continues to grow annually. Favorable policies and support from domestic cloud service providers are the main demand drivers in the country. Shipments from domestic server OEMs have remained fairly robust in China on account of the build-out of the hyperscale data centers across the country. Another reason is that Chinese telecom companies procure servers mostly from domestic manufacturers. Taken together, these aforementioned factors directly contributed to the server shipments of Inspur and Huawei in 1Q21.

Huawei’s server shipments are relatively unaffected by the US-China dispute, even though the sanctions enforced by the US government constrained Huawei’s component supply. The demand for Huawei servers has been boosted by telecom tenders and procurement from domestic enterprise clients. A QoQ growth rate of roughly 10% is projected for 2Q21 on account of a new round of government tenders. As for the whole 2021, Huawei’s annual shipments are still forecasted to register a YoY growth rate of about 5%.

Thanks to infrastructure programs and rising orders from data centers, Inspur is expected to capture around 30% of China’s total server demand in 2021. On the matter of product strategy, Inspur already has a sizable ODM business with tier-1 Chinese cloud service providers (i.e., Baidu, ByteDance, Alibaba, and Tencent). The volume of incoming orders for the first half of this year will also be quite massive because tier-2 cloud service providers and e-commerce platforms such as JD.com, Kuaishou, and Meituan will be injecting significant demand.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-03-31

Despite Cyclical Off-Season, High Demand Results in Historical High for Notebook Panel Shipment in 1Q21, Says TrendForce

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in turn generated a high demand for notebook computers. While demand began ramping up in 2Q20, subsequently resulting in a shortage in 3Q20 and 4Q20, the shortage in the notebook market has yet to be resolved even now, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. The high demand for notebooks is estimated to propel the quarterly shipment of notebook panels to a historical high of 65.3 million units in 1Q21, which is a 3.5% increase QoQ and a 46.5% increase YoY.

With regards to supply and demand, TrendForce believes that the current shortage of notebook panels can primarily be attributed to the soaring market demand for notebooks. In terms of supply, notebook panel shipment underwent YoY increases of more than 20% during each quarter from 2Q20 to 4Q20. At the moment, panel orders from notebook manufacturers still exceed the order fulfillment capacity of panel suppliers by about 30-50%, as panel suppliers are bottlenecked by the shortage of certain semiconductor components, such as DDICs and T-cons.

Given the extremely tight supply of panels relative to demand, notebook panel prices have skyrocketed accordingly. Case in point, quotes for 11.6-inch panels, which are among the mainstream and are widely used for Chromebooks, are now closing in on quotes for 14-inch and 15.6-inch panels. As such, the high profitability of notebook panels have led panel suppliers to set more aggressive shipment targets this year.

In particular, after CEC-Panda sold its Nanjing-based Gen 8.5 fab and Chengdu-based Gen 8.6 fab last year, the company currently possesses a sole remaining Gen 6 fab in Nanjing. While this fab has never manufactured notebook panels in the past, plans for manufacturing 11.6-inch panels are now underway, with mass production expected to start in 2Q21, owing to the extremely high market demand for notebook panels. It should also be pointed out that HKC has been mass producing 11.6-inch panels since February 2021. The company is expected to start mass producing 14-inch panels in 2Q21 and 15.6-inch as well as 13.3-inch panels in 2H21. HKC aims to ship about 10 million notebook panels this year.

TrendForce indicates that the current demand for notebook panels will likely persist through 3Q21. However, as the shortage situation has persisted for more than three quarters since it surfaced in 2Q20, some notebook manufacturers may begin overbooking panel orders due to the expectation of further shortages. Therefore, if the actual market demand were met ahead of expectations, panel suppliers may potentially slow down their panel shipments in 2H21. Even so, the new normal brought about by the pandemic will continue to power the global digital transformation. For instance, in response to the digitization of distance learning, the education sector is expected to generate recurrent demand for Chromebooks. As a result, TrendForce has a positive outlook on the annual shipment volume of notebook panels for 2021, which is expected to reach 249 million units, a 10.5% increase YoY.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Display Research, please click here, or email Ms. Vivie Liu from the Sales Department at vivieliu@trendforce.com

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