Tim Cook


2022-01-06

Annual Mini LED Notebook Computer Shipment for 2022 Expected to Reach Eight Million Units Thanks to Two New MacBook Pro Models

The market in general had high hopes for Mini LED notebook computers in 2021. Although most brands were relatively unenthusiastic towards the adoption of Mini LED displays, the release of Mini LED products by Apple will likely generate a copycat effect and inject fresh momentum into both demand and shipment for the Mini LED notebook market. Apple did, in fact, release two brand new MacBook Pros with 14.2-inch and 16.2-inch displays, both of which are equipped with Mini LED backlights as expected. However, these Mini LED notebook displays did not receive as much marketing and publicity as the Mini LED displays used for the iPad Pro models, which had been released about six months prior.

During the unveiling of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro in 2Q21, Apple made special mention of improvements brought about by the Liquid Retina XDR display technology thanks to the company’s adoption of Mini LED backlights. Conversely, perhaps because the new physical dimensions and processors took most of the spotlight, Apple was surprisingly quiet on its new MacBook Pro models’ Mini LED displays as it announced the release of these new computers during its October event. Not only did the Mini LED iPad Pros completely replace the previous edge-lit models, but these new tablets also featured a mere US$100 retail price hike, which basically entirely accounts for the cost of the new displays. Subsequently, the market began eagerly anticipating the release of the new Mini LED iPad Pro models. In contrast, whereas the 14.2-inch and 16.2-inch models of the new MacBook Pros also feature Mini LED displays exclusively, their retail prices saw significant jumps owing to the integration of multiple updated components and designs, in turn refreshing the enthusiasm of the market for Mini LED displays.

Thanks to the release of the two new MacBook models, annual Mini LED notebook shipment for 2021 reached 2.2 million units, representing a 1% penetration rate in the total notebook market. Regrettably, apart from MacBooks, the shipment volume of Mini LED notebooks released by non-Apple brands was rather insignificant. Looking ahead to 2022, given the all-out effort by Apple to ramp up MacBook shipment throughout the whole year, annual Mini LED notebook shipment for 2022 will likely undergo a staggering 360% YoY increase to eight million units for a 3.4% penetration rate. However, judging by notebook brands’ adoption of display solutions at the moment, most non-Apple brands will still gravitate towards OLED panels in 2022, with minimal adoption of Mini LED displays.

If Gen 8.5 OLED panel production lines are able to kick off mass production from 2024 onwards, will Apple transition its MacBook displays to a different solution much like it did for iPad? TrendForce believes that Apple has historically held a receptive attitude towards OLED solutions. Furthermore, from a technology assessment perspective, notebook computers and tablets are relatively similar in their display technologies and, to a lesser extent, use cases. If Apple does decide to transition iPad displays from Mini LED to OLED, then the company will likely do the same for MacBook display as well, in principle. On the other hand, LCD panels are still expected to remain the mainstream display technology for notebook computers in 2025. It, therefore, makes competitive sense for notebook brands to differentiate their products with OLED panels in the high-end segment and with LCD panels and Mini LED backlights in the premium mid-range segment or even mid-range segment. At any rate, given the shrinking gap between the cost structures of Mini LED solutions and OLED solutions, only by continually optimizing the manufacturing costs of Mini LED backlights can suppliers convince Apple to continue adopting Mini LED displays.

(Image credit: Pixabay)

2021-12-29

Non-Apple notebook manufacturers still unlikely adopt Mini LED displays while SDC aggressively ventures into notebook display market with OLED panels

Despite their similar physical dimensions, notebook panels and tablet panels entail drastically different market conditions. Being two of the strongest performers in the relatively oligopolistic tablet market, Apple and Samsung collectively possess a nearly 60% market share, thereby forcing other brands to adopt a relatively passive strategy that prioritizes conserving market share over adopting emerging technologies. In contrast, the notebook computer market has remained competitive throughout the years, with market leaders HP, Lenovo, and Dell holding the absolute advantage in the commercial notebook segment. Even so, Acer and Asus still enjoy some degree of dominance in the consumer segment, not to mention the fact that Apple has carved a niche market of its own thanks to the absolute differentiation of MacBooks from the rest of the field.

With greater diversity of brands comes greater competition in the market. As such, companies must now continue to refresh their product specs and product ranges in order to stay competitive. In this regard, Mini LED products would appear to be likelier to see adoption in the notebook computer market than in the tablet market. It should be pointed out that SDC (Samsung Display Co.) holds the sole patent for OLED tablet panels – the main competitor of display solutions featuring Mini LED backlights and LCD panels. Although SDC is still figuring out its medium- and long-term strategies in the tablet market, it has been relatively aggressive in capturing share in the notebook market. For instance, SDC’s OLED notebook panels have been gradually cannibalizing market shares from LCD notebook panels since 2021. To date, more than four million notebook computers featuring Samsung’s OLED panels have been shipped, accounting for a nearly 2% market share. In addition, almost all mainstream notebook brands have started carrying their respective lineup of OLED notebooks.

The meteoric rise of OLED models in the notebook market this year can primarily be attributed to SDC, which is the sole supplier of OLED notebook panels. Whereas SDC previously allocated most of its production capacity for OLED (Rigid OLED) panels to smartphone displays, the successive ramp-up of Gen 6 production lines for OLED (Flexible OLED) panels in China has resulted in a hypercompetitive market with plummeting quotes that both placed significant downward pressure on the existing price band of rigid OLED panels and negatively affected demand for rigid OLED panels. Given that the aforementioned factors are unlikely to reverse course, SDC has therefore decided to reallocate their production capacity for rigid OLED panels from smartphone displays to notebook displays instead, since the former has continued to decline as an added value while the latter appears to have much more potential for growth.

Incidentally, SDC has spent considerable time cultivating its presence in the notebook computer market. The company formerly positioned its OLED solutions exclusively in the flagship market segment, with UHD/4K being the only resolution available on its OLED notebook panels. The adoption of these products was lukewarm at best due to OLED panels’ prohibitive prices and the very limited target audience for UHD models. Moving to 2020, however, SDC adopted a more ambitious approach to the notebook market and subsequently released a host of OLED panels featuring Full HD resolution in accordance with the mainstream market’s demands. By doing so, SDC was able to not only substantially lower its OLED notebook panel quotes, but also align its products with the enormous total addressable market of mainstream notebook consumers, in turn skyrocketing notebook brands’ willingness to adopt OLED panels.

Not only have OLED displays enjoyed a longstanding presence in the high-end smartphone and TV segments, but most consumers also generally understand that OLED panels are superior to traditional LCD panels with respect to such specifications as color saturation, contrast levels, and even physical thickness. For notebook computer brands, adopting OLED panels in their displays allows said brands to cut down on costs that would otherwise have to be spent on either educating the average consumer on popular science topics related to display technology or marketing the brands’ display solutions, as OLED displays’ superior specs are already widely known. That is why almost all mainstream brands, ranging from Asus to HP and Dell, have released OLED-equipped notebook computers, some of which even boast consumer-oriented product positions and consumer-friendly retail prices.

On the other hand, although the integration of Mini LED backlights significantly bolsters LCD panels’ traditionally weak contrast levels, significant marketing costs are required to ensure consumers understand the benefits of this new backlighting technology. While OLED solutions are already widely recognized in the market, Mini LED products’ vast marketing costs represent a significant competitive weakness against OLED products. Furthermore, manufacturing costs of display solutions that feature Mini LED backlights and LCD panel modules are about 30-50% higher than those of equivalent solutions featuring OLED panel modules due to the former’s complex design, high number of components, and limited economy of scale. Hence, high manufacturing costs are yet another obstacle preventing brands from investing in Mini LED development.

(Image credit: PikiWizard)

2021-11-30

Smartphone Production Undergoes Modest 5.7% QoQ Increase for 3Q21 Owing to Supply Chain-Related Component Shortages While Recovery to Pre-Pandemic Levels Remains Unlikely, Says TrendForce

The smartphone market is showing an improvement in demand during the second half of this year due to the peak season for e-commerce promotional activities and the easing of COVID-19 outbreaks in regions such as Southeast Asia, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. However, there have been significant shortages of components including 4G SoCs, low-end 5G SoCs, display panel driver ICs, etc. The persistent component gaps are constraining smartphone brands from raising device production for the second half of the year. Looking at 3Q21, the quarterly total smartphone production came to around 325 million units, a 5.7% QoQ increase. Even so, not only does the QoQ increase in smartphone production for 3Q21 fall short of the QoQ increase for the same quarter last year, but the quarterly production volume for 3Q21 also shows a weaker performance result when compared with figures from 3Q20 or from 3Q19, prior to the emergence of the pandemic.

As for the total production for the whole 2021, TrendForce has lowered the projection to 1.335 billion units with a YoY growth rate of 6.5%. The previous projection was 1.345 billion units with a YoY growth rate of 7.3%. This downward correction mainly reflects the impact of the component gaps on device production. Going forward, an important point of observation in the smartphone market is whether the pandemic will further weaken demand. Also, the other significant variables that will influence future smartphone demand include geopolitical tensions, distribution of production capacity in the foundry market, and global inflationary pressure.

While smartphone production for 3Q21 reached about 325 million units, the release of new models helped Apple retake second place in the global ranking

Samsung raised its smartphone production by 17.9% QoQ to 69 million units for 3Q21. The growth was mainly attributed to the stabilization of the capacity utilization rates of its device assembly plants in Vietnam. Samsung continued to top the global ranking of smartphone brands with the largest market share in production terms. Apple released four new iPhone models under the iPhone 13 series in 3Q21. Thanks to their contribution, the total iPhone production for 3Q21 registered a QoQ increase of 22.6% to 51.5 million units. With this result, Apple was also able to climb to second place in the global ranking. In terms of product development, Apple is staying with the plan to release its third-generation iPhone SE in 1Q22 and four models under a new series in 2H22. The third-generation iPhone SE is expected to be a major instrument in helping Apple establish a presence in the market segment for mid-range 5G smartphones. Its production volume for 2022 is forecasted to reach 25-30 million units.

OPPO marginally raised its smartphone production by 3% QoQ to 51 million units for 3Q21, thereby capturing third place in the ranking. Xiaomi held fourth place as its smartphone production for the same quarter fell by 10% QoQ to 44.5 million units. Vivo’s smartphone production for 3Q21 was relatively constant compared with the previous quarter, coming to around 34 million units. With this result, Vivo was ranked fifth. The production figures of these three Chinese brands include devices under their respective sub-brands (i.e., OPPO’s Realme and OnePlus; Xiaomi’s Redmi, POCO, and Black Shark; and Vivo’s iQoo). Looking at the three brands’ production performances in 3Q21, TrendForce notes that there is a high degree of overlap in terms of target market as well as a high degree of similarity in offerings. Hence, their production performances directly hinge on their ability to acquire enough of the components that are now in short supply.

Honor will expand into the overseas markets next year as part of its plan for a comeback

After spending the first half of this year stocking up on components and undergoing business restructuring, Honor is now on a more solid footing and will attain an annual smartphone production of 43.5 million units. In the global ranking of smartphone brands by annual production for 2021, Honor is expected to take eighth place. Also, Honor as an independent brand has obtained access to Google Mobile Services. Therefore, it plans to expand to other markets outside China next year and leverage the sales expertise that it has acquired from Huawei in order gain a bigger share of the overseas markets. Regarding Honor’s sales strategy as a whole, the main focus is still on the domestic market. As for the overseas markets, Honor will continue Huawei’s strategy and avoid India where competition revolves around low pricing. Instead, Honor will attempt to establish itself in regions such as Russia, the wider Europe, and South America. In general, Honor’s rise will likely affect the market shares of the other aforementioned brands. How much market share Honor will gain depends on its ability to have sufficient inventory of components that are now in short supply.

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

2021-11-17

Smartphone Production Expected to Return to Pre-Pandemic Level for 2022 with 1.39 Billion Units, Says TrendForce

Smartphones are essential to people’s daily lives and constitute a basic necessity. TrendForce therefore expects the smartphone industry to rebound and post marginal growth next year, assuming that economic activities worldwide will mostly return to normal by then. The main trend drivers in the smartphone market next year are still going to be the usual device replacement cycle and the additional demand from emerging markets. TrendForce expects annual smartphone production for 2022 to reach about 1.39 billion units and the YoY growth rate hitting 3.8%.

Expanding market share will be very challenging for smartphone brands due to fierce competition

Samsung’s smartphone production for 2022 is expected to reach 276 million units, a 1.1% YoY growth. The company continues to reorganize and extend its product series. The integration of the Galaxy Note series with the Foldable series, the continuation of the S-Pen, etc. are some of the moves that Samsung has taken to maintain its market share in the high-end segment. Moreover, Samsung has increased the outsourcing portion of its device manufacturing in order to make its mid-range and low-end models more cost competitive. However, advances in device design and manufacturing will only intensify the competition in developed markets. In the emerging markets, demand will continue to concentrate on entry-level models. Hence, Samsung will have increasing difficulty in growing its market share as most of its offering do not target the demand for entry-level products. This also means that retaining market share will become more challenging for the brand.

Apple is set to release the latest model in its iPhone SE lineup (i.e., the third-generation SE), featuring a 4.7-inch display, A15 SoC, and 5G support, by the end of 1Q22. Other than these features, the rest of the new SE’s hardware specifications will be similar to those of the second-gen SE. In this regard, the new SE can be seen as an invaluable asset with which Apple attempts to enter the mid-range 5G smartphone segment. In 2H22, the company will keep to its tradition of announcing four new models, two of which will feature a 6.1-inch display, while the other two will feature a 6.7-inch display. Although the release of these five new handsets will likely help Apple increase its market share next year, this increase will be constrained by the fact that Apple will have to raise the retail price of its smartphones in order to keep up with rising component prices and ensure some profitability. TrendForce therefore expects Apple’s smartphone production for 2022 to reach 243 million units, representing a 5.4% YoY growth and the second highest volume among all smartphone brands.

Given that demand will unlikely increase by a significant margin in the domestic Chinese smartphone market next year, the three major Chinese brands, including OPPO, Xiaomi, and Vivo, will primarily depend on overseas sales for their smartphone market share growths. It should be pointed out that TrendForce’s calculation of Xiaomi’s production volume also includes handsets released by the brand’s subsidiaries Mi, Redmi, POCO, and Black Shark. Thanks to Xiaomi’s relatively early expansion in the overseas markets, as the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic is gradually brought under control, Xiaomi is expected to benefit the growth of its overseas sales and register a smartphone production of 220 million units, representing a 15.8% YoY growth and the third highest volume among all brands.

Fourth-ranked OPPO sells its smartphones globally under three brands: OPPO, Realme, and OnePlus. TrendForce expects OPPO group’s annual smartphone production for 2022 to reach 208 million units, a 2.5% YoY growth. Regarding product planning, OPPO is relatively similar compared with Xiaomi, as both of these brands differentiate between various markets and client bases through subsidiaries. Likewise, OPPO has in recent years actively expanded its peripheral ecosystem businesses, such as software services and additional consumer items, in order to improve its profitability for the year. Finally, Vivo will take the fifth rank next year by producing almost 150 million handsets, a 6.4% YoY growth. This brand depends heavily on its customers’ cyclical replacement demand for its sales. Therefore, while the Chinese smartphone market, which is Vivo’s primary sales region, becomes increasingly saturated, the brand’s room for growth next year will also be relatively limited. In addition, as HONOR will also aggressively look to capture market shares in China, the production volumes of OPPO and Vivo will be further constrained next year.

Annual 5G smartphone production for 2022 is expected to reach about 660 million units despite slowing growth rate

Thanks to the Chinese government’s active push for 5G commercialization for the past two years, the global market share of 5G smartphones will likely hit 37.4% in 2021, with about 500 million units produced throughout the year. Going forward, now that the market share of 5G smartphones has surpassed 80% in China, the smartphone industry will shift its focus of 5G development to other regional markets. However, because countries vary in the progress of 5G infrastructure build-out, and 5G service plan fees are higher than 4G fees, the growth of 5G market share now appears to be slowing. As such, TrendForce expects 5G smartphone production for 2022 to reach about 660 million units, translating to a market share of 47.5% for 5G handsets in the overall smartphone market.

On the other hand, the growing market share of 5G smartphones also generates a corresponding growing demand for components. Given the increased shipment in servers, IoT devices, and EVs, foundries will find it even harder to manufacture enough components for 5G handsets since foundry capacities are already stretched to their limits. What this also means is that the market share of smartphone brands will depend on how successful they are in booking foundry capacities. Smartphone brands’ scramble for foundry capacities, however, may in turn result in overbookings or uneven allocation of capacities to components, thereby further exacerbating the mismatched availability of smartphone components. Hence, if the actual demand from smartphone buyers falls short of expectations, TrendForce believes that smartphone brands may be forced to adjust their inventories once again in 2H22.

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

2021-10-27

Annual Shipment of Notebooks with Mini LED Backlight for 2022 Expected to Reach Five Million Units as Apple Takes Aim at Mid-Range/High-End Markets with Latest MacBook Pro, Says TrendForce

Apple recently unveiled its newest lineup of 14.2-inch and 16.2-inch MacBook Pros, which represent the company’s latest effort to extend its application of display backlights with Mini LED technology from the 12.9-inch iPad Pro to the MacBook Pro range. TrendForce’s latest investigations indicate that, in light of Apple’s foray into the high-end notebook computer market with the latest generation of MacBook Pro, annual shipment of notebook computers equipped with Mini LED backlight for 2022 will likely reach five million units, a 213% YoY increase.

It should be pointed out that, due to OLED supplier Samsung’s aggressive efforts to capture shares in the notebook market this year, annual shipment of notebooks with OLED panels for 2021 will likely reach 2.5 to 2.7 million units, which represents a penetration rate of about 1.1%. OLED displays compete directly with Mini LED displays in the high-end notebook market, meaning the adoption of Mini LED displays by non-Apple notebook manufacturers has consistently been limited. In addition, Apple waited until 4Q21 to release the new MacBook Pro models. Taking these factors into account, TrendForce is therefore revising its forecast of annual shipment of notebooks with Mini LED backlight for 2021 from 2.4 million units down to 1.65 million units.

TrendForce indicates that Apple’s product planning regarding the newest MacBook Pro lineup marks a departure from its previous strategy of having only a 13.3-inch model for the entry-level segment and a 16.2-inch model for the high-end segment, since the newest 14.2-inch MacBook is positioned as a product for the mid-range segment. Regarding pricing, the 14.2-inch model at base configuration costs US$500 more than the 13.3-inch model and US$500 less than the 16.2-inch model, assuming all aforementioned models are equipped with a 512GB SSD. Regarding technical specs, not only do the new models feature an improvement in CPU/GPU, but their backlight has also been upgraded to Mini LED technology. With these advancements in both computing power and display performance, Apple will likely be able to erase any doubts from consumers regarding the merit of the price hike.

Both of the new MacBook Pro models are equipped with a Mini LED backlight, with about 8,000-11,000 Mini LED chips divided across 2,000-2,600 local dimming zones, resulting in a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio. Mainstream Mini LED backlight-equipped notebooks from other manufacturers, on the other hand, generally feature about 240-512 local dimming zones, thereby showing Apple’s relative superiority in display technology. Furthermore, despite being a step up in terms of display size from the 13.3-inch model, the 14.4-inch model maintains a similar thin and light profile even though it contains a direct-lit Mini LED backlight, which requires additional clearance for light mixing and additional PCB substrate thickness.

Along with Apple’s continued adoption of Mini LED backlight technology, a plethora of new participants are expected to enter the Mini LED supply chain in 2022, in turn making this technology much more cost-effective and benefitting companies that are not part of Apple’s supply chain as well. Companies that are set to benefit next year include Mini LED chip suppliers (e.g., Ennostar and Osram), testing and sorting service providers (e.g., FitTech, Saultech, and YTEC), SMT suppliers (e.g., TSMT and Yenrich), backplane PCB suppliers (e.g., Zhen Ding Tech, Tripod Technology, and Apex), driver IC suppliers (e.g., Parade, TI, Novatek, and Macroblock), light source module suppliers (e.g., Radiant/ROE and GIS), and OEMs (e.g., Quanta and Foxconn).

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Optoelectronics Research, please click here, or email Ms. Grace Li from the Sales Department at graceli@trendforce.com

(Image credit: Apple

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