The foldable display market was valued at US$104.158 million in 2019 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 83.93% over the forecast period to reach a total market size of US$4,033.094 million in 2025. Modernization seems a never-ending process as societies have been experiencing it for centuries, and still continue to do so throughout the globe. While blending of cultures and lifestyles from the west into those in the east, and vice-versa can be referred to as modernization, advancements in technologies continue to make societies even more modern. As technologies continue to become obsolete at a rapid pace, and newer generations of solutions continue to wipe older versions out of the market, spending by people into staying at pace with ongoing pace of innovations is increasing. Adoption of solutions, which are more advanced or innovative, is increasing among people, and this is attributed both to people’s choice and strategies of solution providers. For instance, many solutions providers stop rolling out updates for previous generations of their products as part of their move to promote sales of newer generation solutions. Since displays hold a fairly strong position among people today, on account rapidly increasing digitization across every industry vertical, display manufacturers continue to pump huge investments into designs which align well with the evolving lifestyle of people. From Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) bases displays, which surfaced in late 1800s, to invention of Liquid Crystal Displays, Plasma technology and LED Displays, display technologies continued to witness a very significant transition from one generation to the next advanced generation. Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) and Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode now continue to strengthen their presence in this landscape with continuous advancements in their performance and efficiency and continuous reduction in prices, brought about by huge investments into research and development. Numerous solutions across industries are witnessing incorporation of advanced display technologies, which is supporting their market growth. Smartphones are one of the biggest end user segments for advanced displays. For instance, incoming of the first wave of foldable smartphones last year gave the required head-start to foldable AMOLED displays as their shipments rose by more than five times in 2020 as compared to those last year.
Foldable displays are bringing about innovation in smartphone form factors, thus facilitating incorporation of large display sizes into small devices. With the development of some foldable smartphones by manufacturers like Samsung and Lenovo among some others last year, foldable displays are not only poised to bring about some significant disruptions in the mobile devices sector over the next decade, but also catalyse the growth of display industry as a whole. Companies like Samsung Display and LG, two of the biggest display manufacturers in the world, along with other companies like BOE Technology Group Co., Ltd. (BOE) and Visionox among others are all currently pumping huge investments into different types of foldable display. With high degree of differentiation in their displays, in terms of thickness and bending radius, each of these innovators are aiming at offering a unique solution to their customers. For instance, while some companies are offering out folding foldable devices, using all outed displays, others are offering in folding in folding devices using either partially outed display or an additional display. Not just this, displays’ bending radius has seen improvement as displays with bending radius less than or equal to 1.5 mm and 1.1 mm are also in development now, which is way lower than 5 mm of bending radius in older generations. While thickness of older generation displays was less than or equal to 19 mm, it has now come down to 15 mm and 12 mm, which is impressive. Although ability of AMOLEDs to be manufactured with low thickness and bending radius, makes them fit for the purpose of folding, the foldable devices using these displays are somewhat less ready to enter the end market. Many patents for foldable displays have been filed over the past couple of years, yet some challenges in mass producing them still continue to hinder their widespread adoption. One of these challenges is associated with display structure. The substrate for making foldable displays must be polyimide, since glass substrates cannot support folding functionality. For use in smartphones, these displays also require a foldable touch panel and a cover window which is strong enough to shield the display. Not just this, for achieving a bend radius of 1.5 mm, combined thickness of display and touch module should be less than 1 mm. Since display substrate has chemical and optical film layers on top of it, along with a good number of semiconductors and transistors, achieving the total combined thickness of less than 1 mm are difficult. Even if companies succeed in achieving this, inclination of consumers towards thicker displays will continue to be a challenge. This is one of the major reasons behind the higher popularity of out folding smartphones and tablets, since these have thicker displays (as compared to those in in-folding smartphones and tablets) and are less hard to manufacture. On the other hand, foldable touch panels also need advanced materials in order to become foldable. While colourless polymide and flexible hard coating can increase the reliability significantly, it also aids in achieving pencil hardness of more than 9H. Reliability can be increased with the use of specialized TFT shape, and flexibility can be enhanced with the use of cushion via hole and multi-buffer. Even if companies manage to get past this hurdle, achieving high yield rate is another big challenge which awaits them. While current yield rate for OLED displays for smartphones is in the range of 60% and 70%, the yield rate for foldable displays is less than 30% on account of the complex process which goes into their manufacturing. Although there is no definite way of determining reliability, companies seek to achieve 200,000 times of folding/unfolding, which they see as a benchmark. Another challenge for companies seeking to tap the market potential is supply chain limitations associated with foldable displays. Unlike LCD or OLED displays, which can be mass produced by manufacturers and sold both to top-tier solution manufacturers and second-tier solution manufacturers, foldable displays do not have any second-tier customers currently. This is limiting the number of companies entering this market, thus limiting the market growth to some extent. Yet, since foldable displays account for a fairly small share of the global flexible OLED market now, there is a big room with immense growth opportunities available for market players in the short term and medium term.
Geographically, the foldable display market has been segmented into North America, South America, Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Asia Pacific. To give a clearer view, these regional markets have been further segmented into countries which account for a significant share in the market. North America and Europe, which are known to be the key markets for new technologies, account for a decent share in the overall market. Market growth in these regions is majorly being driven by the presence of robust research infrastructure with many high-tech laboratories and technology-intensive production lines in these regions. However, Asia Pacific accounts for a major share in the global market. This region has the presence of some of the major market players like Samsung, LG, and BOE among others. These companies are pumping huge investments into research and development, and into increasing the production of these displays. Not just this, the market growth in this region is also being driven by the presence of a large number of end-solution manufacturers across it. Rapid growth of consumer electronics industry in this region is expected to act as a supporting pillar for this market over the projected period. Since many of the major smartphone and tablet manufacturers in the world have production facilities in this region, demand for foldable displays is expected to strengthen over the forecast period. Other regions like South America and Middle East and Africa account for a fairly small share in this market, and the uptake of this technology in these regions is expected to remain slower than that in other regions. Among these two regions, Middle East and Africa is expected to account for a larger market share as this market climbs up the growth curve. The market growth in this region will majorly be attributed to strong growth of electronics market in countries like Israel and South Africa. Since South America is also a fairly lucrative geography for setting up electronics production facilities, it is also expected to contribute to the market growth over the projected period.
Prominent key market players in the foldable display market include SAMSUNG, Visionox Company, Royole Corporation and BOE Technology Group Co., Ltd. among others. These companies hold a noteworthy share in the market on account of their good brand image and product offerings. Major players in the portfolio management systemmarket have been covered along with their relative competitive position and strategies. The report also mentions recent deals and investments of different market players over the last two years.