Smartphone Displays Lead to New Manufacturing Techniques: NPD

The firm estimated that more than 100 million 5-inch panels will be shipped in 2013, 5 percent of all mobile phone displays.

Smartphone display manufacturers are beginning to implement new manufacturing technologies to reduce power consumption at higher resolutions, as 5-inch full-high-definition (FHD, 1920x1080 resolution) smartphone panels continue to gain traction with consumers, according to research firm NPD DisplaySearch.

Currently, the vast majority of smartphone liquid crystal display (LCD) screens are produced with amorphous silicon thin film transistor (a-Si TFT) displays, due to its maturity and relatively low cost, despite the fact that it has lower performance than oxide or low temperature polysilicon (LTPS) TFT displays.

The firm estimated that more than 100 million 5-inch panels will be shipped in 2013, 5 percent of all mobile phone displays. Handset makers such as Samsung, Sony and HTC have all produced models with larger displays as consumers gravitate towards smartphones capable of acting more like tablets or portable computers.

"While Apple iPhone suppliers are focused on the production of LTPS LCDs, others with experience in oxide TFT are trying to address the issue and get a competitive advantage," Yoonsung Chung, director of large-area displays and FPD materials for NPD DisplaySearch, said in a statement. "Each of these technologies has its own advantages and disadvantages and it will be critical for the panel makers to choose the most appropriate technology to reach their goals."

The report noted the manufacturing cost gap between a-Si and oxide screens is approximately 3 percent, and another 11 percent between oxide and LTPS TFT. The shift to higher-performance handsets with increasingly higher-resolution displays has driven panel manufacturers to create more sophisticated screens.

"Oxide TFT offers the potential to both lower cost and increase performance," Chung said. "The cost of oxide displays is comparable to a-Si displays, while the performance of oxide is closer to LTPS; however, instability, poor yield rate and other technology hurdles could slow its adoption."

In addition, two leading handset makers, Samsung and LG, are making phones that have curved screens. The latest device in LG's flagship G Series, the G Flex, incorporates a 6-inch curved OLED panel and are built on plastic substrates instead of glass.

LG claims the plastic OLED (POLED) display is brighter and more precise thanks to the application of Real RGB, which contains all three sub-pixels--red, green and blue--in one pixel.

Samsung also premiered a 30-second video ad for its competing device, which it is calling the Galaxy Round. The handset boasts a 5.7-inch HD display and will only be available in the company’s home country of South Korea. The Round runs Google’s Android operating system and the company has yet to reveal a price point for the device.