Samsung Display plans to supply foldable panels to Chinese smartphone firms

Global major smartphone makers are competitively joining the race for foldable smartphones, which is expected to invigorate the market that has been seeing a falling demand in recent years. As part of its efforts to seize opportunities in the sector, Samsung Display, the flexible OLED maker, has sent out a batch of foldable display prototypes to Chinese smartphone makers, including Oppo and Xiaomi, looking to build partnerships with them, according to industry sources with knowledge of the matter.

The latest move is considered quite unusual as the Korean company, a display-making unit under tech giant Samsung Electronics, provides cutting-edge technology for the Korean smartphone maker first, among other reasons, because its sales volume is much larger than others. There was usually a gap before it supplied the latest display tech to other smartphone firms.

However, things are different this time as the foldable smartphone market is something that did not exist before, and many smartphone companies, including Samsung Electronics, are thought to be rolling out a limited batch of such handsets in the beginning.

Samsung Yole

It also seems that Samsung Display is trying to grow the foldable smartphone ecosystem at a fast pace and to take the lion’s share in the segment.

The sources said the Korean firm is considering utilizing its A2 and A3 OLED lines in Asan, South Chungchenog Province.

The two manufacturing lines produce slightly different types of OLED products. Foldable displays integrated with touch panels are rolled out at A3, and those without the touch panels are made at A2. A foldable display with the touch layer is more expensive and difficult to make.

In mid-July, the display-making affiliate of Samsung created a task force consisting of 200 engineers who had previously worked under different OLED divisions to speed up mass production of the foldable display.

The creation of the new team was aimed at solving technical issues of foldable panels at a fast pace,” said an official from the display company.

The shipments of foldable panels are expected to reach 14 million, worth US$2.67 billion, in 2021, up from 1 million in 2019, according to Korean research firm Stone Partners.