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Mass production of curved smartphones still has ways to go

Posted: 14 Jan 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:AMOLED? curved smartphones? display panel?

LG Electronics has announced that it will be shipping curved smartphones using flexible displays to the U.S. market in the first quarter. The announcement was met with interest at the International CES 2014, but the IHS said that technical challenges associated with the manufacturing of flexible active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) displays may prevent the high-volume manufacturing of curved phones and panels from taking off for several years more.

Global shipments of flexible AMOLED display panels for smartphones are expected to amount to 814,000 units in 2014, according to a report from IHS.

Shipments will remain limited in 2015, 2016, and 2017, reaching only 1.9 million, 4.5 million, and 8.3 million, respectively, during those years. Even so, shipments will nearly double every year within the period.

"As shown by the announcement of the G Flex today from LG, there's a great deal of interest from the industry and the marketplace in the use of flexible display technology in smartphones," said Vinita Jakhanwal, director of mobile and emerging displays and technology at IHS. "However, initial production is likely to be curtailed by numerous pending technical issues related to producing flexible AMOLED displays. As these issues are resolvedand the cost of flexible AMOLED declinesshipments will rise in the coming years."

At a packed event attended by thousands of media representatives, LG showed the G Flex, a smartphone with a 6-inch curved AMOLED.

The curved form factor of the G Flex delivers ergonomic benefits by fitting the shape of users' faces when they are speaking on the phone. The design also improves sound quality by placing the microphone closer to the mouth and the speaker nearer to the ear. Moreover, the large, curved screen delivers what LG describes as a "cinematic viewing experience" when watching video.

LG is manufacturing its curved AMOLED based on either a 4.5-generation or a 6th-generation plastic substrate in its AP2 E2 line.

LG rival Samsung Display also has started mass production of flexible displays for mobile applications in 2013. The company is producing flexible AMOLED screens based on a 5.5G plastic substrate in the A2 Ph3 line.

The major challenge in producing flexible AMOLED displays is finding a material that can replace glass and is optically superior while achieving a stable manufacturing process. This drives up cost because of materials used and processes employed to achieve stabilised production.

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