Sharp will offer OLED panels in its new smartphones after this year and intends to market the screens to other manufacturers, although it has signalled it is wary about a rapid growth in OLED as momentum for its thinner but more expensive displays slows.
The move comes as the Osaka-based electronics maker, a significant provider of iPhone liquid crystal display (LCD) screens, continues its recovery after being purchased a couple of decades ago from Taiwan’s Foxconn.
Sharp’s OLED smartphones will initially go on sale in Japan, by far its important marketplace after it slashed its overseas smartphone enterprise. The business has not yet reached any bargains for earnings to other smartphone manufacturers, a spokeswoman said in a launch role in Tokyo.
Sharp has thus far spent JPY 57.4 billion ($505 million) to produce OLED panels in western Japan, less than a third of the planned 200 billion yen investment which has been declared by Foxconn in the time of its acquisition in 2016.
Sharp executives have stated a change from traditional LCD displays to more flexible OLED screens has been slower than expected as a result of high prices, which makes the firm cautious about competitive OLED capacity growth in the near term.
The slower acceptance of pricier OLED panels has also provided some relief to Japan Screen Inc, another iPhone LCD screen provider lagging behind Samsung and LG Screen in OLED technology.
Japan Display has stated it may push back the beginning of OLED commercial production, now scheduled for 2019, while seeking a partner to help fund the launching of a mass production line. Analysts say it typically costs over JPY 200 billion ($1.8 billion) to start a mass production line.
“To our surprise, our customers aren’t moving away from LCD panels,” Chief Financial Officer Takanobu Oshima stated in August.
South Korea’s Electronic Times reported earlier this year that Apple has opted to use OLED displays in all 3 new iPhone versions planned for next year, in comparison to two OLED versions this year.
But industry sources have told Reuters that Apple would not entirely abandon low-cost LCD displays at least for next year.
Still, analysts say that the OLED panel market could pick up if improvements in production efficiency at Chinese and Korean panel manufacturers lead to lower costs. OLED panels offer richer colors than LCDs and permit for foldable phones.