Smartphones, Tablets Power AMOLED Demand for Mobile Devices: NPD

Increased demand means there will be no slack for any supply disruptions, and AMOLED shortages could be on the horizon.

The supply of Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode (AMOLED) panels for mobile devices is expected to tighten in the second half of this year, with the supply-and-demand ratio expected to fall to 1 percent in in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to the latest NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly FPD Supply/Demand and Capital Spending Report.

The report noted this level means there will be no slack for any supply disruptions, and could lead to shortages. AMOLED phone panel shipments are projected to reach more than 217 million units this year, up from 134 million units in 2012, which, along with increasing screen sizes, will lead AMOLED demand to grow from 263,000 square meters in the first quarter of the year to 557,000 square meters by the first quarter of 2014, as rapidly expanding demand for smartphones with larger displays continues to drive growth in the flat panel display (FPD) industry.

"Rapid growth of smartphones and tablets, in conjunction with the continued shift towards larger average TV sizes, are driving a recovery of the FPD industry. In Q4 '12, average operating margins for FPD manufacturers turned positive for the first time since Q3 ’10, and this trend is forecast to continue," Charles Annis, vice president of manufacturing research at NPD DisplaySearch, said in a statement. "Additionally, the outlook for fab utilization, equipment spending and technology upgrades is improving this year and potentially will continue into 2014."

The report noted availability of large-area FPDs--mostly thin-film-transistor liquid-crystal displays (TFT LCDs)--is also expected to tighten throughout 2013, as prices for TVs continue to fall, encouraging consumers to move to larger sets, which in turn is helping to drive an increase in area demand.The large-area supply and demand is forecast to decline from 21.9 percent in the first quarter of 2013 to 11.8 percent in the third quarter of the year. As a result, average fab utilization will likely rise above 85 percent.

With TFT capacity forecast to grow only 4 percent in 2014 and demand likely to increase 10 percent, the tightening is forecast to continue to through the third quarter of next tear, when large area FPD supply/demand is projected to fall to a very tight 6 percent.

"Samsung Display still produces the vast majority of commercially available AMOLEDs, and these are mainly used in smartphones. With the recent release of the Galaxy S4 with a 5-in. full HD AMOLED display, Samsung will need to run its AMOLED fabs at maximum capacity to keep up with expected high demand," Annis said. "As the supply/demand ratio is expected to tighten dramatically, Samsung is moving to significantly extend capacity at its A2 Gen 5.5 fab this year and next. Additionally, the company may also accelerate its plan for A3, another new AMOLED production line."