Sharp has confirmed that it has already started the mass production of its OLED panels in June 2018. The OLED panels originate from the tech firm's manufacturing facilities at SaKai Display Products. Sharp's executive vice president, Katsuaki Nomura, also stated that the OLED screens produced by the company will be initially used by the high-end smartphone models from the tech firm's own Aquos smartphone lineup. Previous high-end handset offerings of the Japanese device maker, including the Sharp Aquos R2, utilized IGZO displays. Sharp's OLED-equipped mobile devices are expected to start shipping by the fourth quarter of 2018.
Sharp has been working to boost its production of OLED panels in the last few years to compete with dominant players Samsung Display and LG Display. Recent figures show that the two companies hold around 97.8-percent of the smartphone OLED panel market. Samsung Display currently has a market share of 90.1-percent while LG Display accounts for 7.7-percent of the small to medium-sized OLED screen market. Sharp set aside more than $514 million last year to expand its manufacturing facilities in Taki, Mie Prefecture, and Sakai, Osaka Prefecture. These two factories produce OLED modules for smartphones and tablets, although the tech firm also allocated a portion of the investment to the development and production of OLED panels for laptops and television sets. Moreover, Sharp has also asked the Japanese government to allow the company to establish an all-Japan OLED alliance with Japan Display Incorporated, which should enable the two companies to better compete with their South Korean rivals.
Aside from Sharp, Chinese display manufacturers are also expanding their OLED panel production facilities. Industry insiders noted that a number of Chinese smartphone makers have started partially replacing Samsung-manufactured panels by cooperating with local display makers. Analysts also expect that these companies may challenge Samsung Display for the dominance of the Chinese handset display market as early as 2019. However, Samsung and LG are also investing in their respective production operations to keep up with the demands of smartphone manufacturers. LG has allocated $18.8 billion earlier this year to construct additional production plants. Meanwhile, Samsung spent around $8.9 billion last year to expand its existing OLED production lines.