Samsung are currently the number one manufacturer in the small and medium OLED panel market; according to the industry, Samsung control 95% (or 99%) of the market. The company has consolidated its position and year after year has continued to invest in the technology. Currently, Samsung's AMOLED panels are cheaper to manufacture than the equivalent LCD panels, which combined with changes in the Android operating system has and will continue to increase the appeal of OLED technology. These changes revolve around how the platform can show notifications to users by flashing details on the screen, which is otherwise turned off. AMOLED panels only need to illuminate and power those pixels that are needed whereas LCD panels must rely on a backlight, which illuminates the whole panel. However, other manufacturers also manufacture OLED panel technology, such as South Korean conglomerate and Samsung's arch rival, LG.
LG and Samsung are squaring up in the OLED market and are investing massive sums into production facilities. The reason for this massive investment is in order to court some of the world's largest customers of small and medium displays, such as Apple, which has been widely reported as starting to make the switch to OLED technology for future generations of the iPhone. As Apple plays its smartphone development cards close to its chest, we cannot be certain how and when the company will switch display technologies from LCD to OLED but one school of thought is that Apple will adopt flexible OLEDs from late 2017, but that not all iPhone models will use the technology. However, the industry is expecting around half of iPhones sold at the end of 2017 to use flexible OLED panels and current estimates means that Apple will need to order approximately 100 million panels. We've seen Samsung ramping up production lines in advance of this so that it could easily take on a new order from Apple for this quantity of panels but it appears that LG is not giving up on the OLED market without a fight and believes it can control a significant element of the flexible display market.
Despite this, the investment figures reveal a startling difference between the two companies. Samsung is reckoned on investing a total of $9.7 billion over the year, a record high annual investment figure, and is targeting smartphones, tablets and the laptop market. LG, by comparison, is believed to be investing approximately $4 billion into its OLED technology with around half of this going into flexible panel technology. We've seen how LG has invested into POLED production lines at the Gumi and Paju factories but it takes several months before a production line is first set up and then operating at capacity. At Gumi, equipment is being moved into the facility and the production line is expected to be up and running by the first half of 2017.