Benefitting from their sales of liquid crystal displays (LCD) to smartphone and tablet original equipment manufacturers (OEM)—most notably Apple Inc.—South Korean panel suppliers in September defied a decline in the overall small and medium-sized (SMD) display market with a robust 9 percent expansion in shipments compared to August.
SMD panel shipments from South Korean suppliers Samsung Display Co. and LG Display amounted to 48 million units in September, up from 44 million units a month earlier, according to an IHS iSuppli SMD PriceTrak Report from information and analytics provider IHS (NYSE: IHS). In contrast, the combined panel shipments from a rival contingent comprising six Taiwanese suppliers declined by 3 percent during the same time, down to 166.8 million units from 172.3 million units.
The resulting total from both groups, at 214.8 million units, was a marginal 0.7 percent decline in market shipments compared to the August level of 216.3 million units, as shown in the figure below.
“Samsung continued to supply LCD panels for the iPad in September, although its monthly shipment volume to Apple declined compared to the first half of 2012,” said Vinita Jakhanwal, director for small and medium displays at IHS. “LG Display is expected to take the leadership position in terms of supplying displays for the iPad product line. Along with sales to other top smartphone and tablet OEMs, the Apple business helped the two Korean companies improve their SMD display shipments.”
Apple’s New Tablet Line—and its Likely Effect
The new fourth-generation iPad from Apple, announced by the company in late October, features the same 9.7-inch Retina display employed initially in the third-generation iPad. The display resolution for the iPad now stands at 264 pixels per inch (ppi) with 2,048 by 1,536 pixels--double that of the iPad 2 at 132 ppi.
Concurrently Apple has released the iPad mini, featuring a smaller 7.9-inch display than its full-sized counterpart. The iPad mini display features the same in-plane switching (IPS) technology used with the bigger iPads—allowing for wider viewing angles. The iPad mini has a resolution of 163 ppi at 1,024 by 768 pixels—and does not use a Retina display. The iPad mini is 23 percent thinner and 53 percent lighter than the third-generation iPad; its pixel density also is 25 percent less than the Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HD tablets, and 33 percent less than the Barnes & Noble Nook HD.
Apple’s entrance into the 7.x-inch tablet segment will further diversify that market and likely spur increased demand among consumers for that size category.
Growing demand for the panels could spur more suppliers to initiate strategies for production at newer, larger-generation fabs.
If Apple were to further decrease orders to Samsung, it could potentially open up opportunities for other tablet display suppliers, like AU Optronics and Chimei Innolux in Taiwan, and Sharp and others in Japan. However, ramping up of yields for large-volume production, technical requirements and pricing issues remain a concern for some of the other suppliers.
Tablet Panel Pricing is Up, but Handset Panel Pricing is Down
New tablet products helped to boost pricing in September for tablet PC panels overall to $49.65, up 3 percent from $48.35 in August.
Within the tablet PC panel segment, however, pricing rose or fell depending on the particular size segment involved. Pricing on average fell 0.6 percent month-over-month to $58.43 for 9.x-inch tablet panels. Pricing also declined for the 7.x-inch segment, down 1.2 percent to $46.27. The contraction in both the 9.x- and 7.x-inch segments was countered by a19.8 percent surge in the 8.x-inch tablet PC segment to reach $53.19, following the introduction of the 8.9-inch, 1,920 by 1,200 pixel display, of the Kindle Fire HD.
The rise in overall tablet panel pricing did not apply to mobile handset displays. Panel pricing there fell 0.7 percent in September to $11.71, down from $11.79 a month earlier.
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